Warmth. Sweet serenity, peace, and relaxation. Hiccup's mind was in a fog, not quite awake yet, but to date, this was the most comfortable sleep he had had.
"HHHIIIICCCCCUUUUUPPPP!" A boisterous shout shook the house. "Where are you lad?! You can't hide forever!"
Oh yeah, he was next to Toothless. He attempted to get up, but the large lizard was reluctant to move. Soon, the boy was a tangled mess of limbs, wings, and a tail. "Here dad!" He called, poking his head out of the scaly mess.
Stoick came up the stairs and saw his son. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Uh…It's a long story." He shrugged.
Stoick merely raised his eyebrows as a way to say, 'try me.'
"Uh…I…couldn't sleep last night."
The chief pursed his lips. "That didn't seem like that long of a story."
Hiccup finally got out of Toothless' grip and came to stagger in the room. "So what's the big deal? Why are you yelling?"
"The 'big deal' is that it's high noon, and I couldn't find my son who's supposed to be helping me prepare for the Gauls!"
"Oh wow, it's noon? I'm sorry…I guess I just haven't been sleeping well and I needed my rest."
"You can rest when you're dead!" He called encouragingly, walking down the stairs. "I have a list as long as my arm to prepare for our guests.
"Great…" Mumbled Hiccup, "I can't wait to get started." He looked back at Toothless who stared at him like a hopeless kitten.
Stoick had him running errands up and down the village. "Make sure the Thorenson's are fixing up their barn to house people…check on the dragon stable to make sure everything is secure…go check in on the fishermen…ask Uglythug if he and his wife are preparing yak for the feast…etc."
The chores stretched over days. At night, Hiccup would drag himself to bed and then back out in the morning. He was fortunate that his father allowed him a break every once in awhile to take Toothless out for a spin. Or else, the dragon would go stir crazy and start getting into things. The boy never had the chance to think about Astrid, let alone talk to her.
Sun's day rolled around, and the Gaul's had not yet arrived. Hiccup's main concern was to check in on the dragon trainers about their presentations. Namely, the twins and Snotlout. He found his cousin at the ring first, smoke rising from a pit.
"Hey Snotlout…how's it going?"
The bulkier kid looked his cousin up and down. "I should be asking you the same thing…too busy to come up with your own idea? Well, you can't have mine! It took me four days to come up with it!"
"I have my own idea. Trust me. I'm just checking to make sure nothing's going to explode or go up in flames…and Hookfang has a tendency to do that."
"Yep, so I'm not going to risk that. I will say that he ignites, but not actually have him do it. Instead, I'm going to demonstrate the usefulness of the ash left behind."
Hiccup was impressed. "Wow, I didn't know you had that in you, Snotlout."
"Well, I may have asked Gobber for some help…"
Hiccup looked at him skeptically.
He rolled his eyes. "Fine, it took me four days to ask Gobber. He told me how to do it. Check it out! I made soap, salt, a weapon polish, fertilizer, and toothpaste! Who knew this stuff could be so useful, right?"
"I'm just glad to see something very productive going on. Good job Snotlout. Any idea where the twins are?"
The older boy shrugged before an explosion in the woods went off.
"Never mind, I found them. Catch ya later." He mounted Toothless and was soon off to the site if the blast.
When he landed, he found the twins, their Zippleback, and, surprisingly, Fishlegs. Tuffnut was gnawing on a burnt chicken leg.
"Hey guys, how's it going?"
"Eh…" Shrugged Ruffnut.
"You wanna taste our Barf Chicken? It's a little charred, and has a distinct flavor of gas…" Tuffnut spoke through full cheeks.
"No, thanks…" Hiccup declined. "So Fishlegs, why are you out here with them?"
"That is a great question, my fine friend." Was that smugness in his voice? "Care to share, Ruffnut?"
The blonde rolled her eyes. "We were having a hard time coming up with a non-destructive trick, so we asked Fishlegs for advice."
"Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of. Snotlout stole an idea from Gobber, so why not? What's the trick?"
"We're cooking chicken," stated Ruff.
"But in unconventional methods." added Tuff.
"Instead of turning it on a spit to cook it evenly…"
"Barf and Belch roast it from all sides at the same time."
"Huh, sounds like a good idea."
Fishlegs came into the conversation. "Right now we're testing to see how much fire and how much cook time it needs."
"And we may need something to cover up this…gassy taste." Tuff smacked his tongue. "Makes me nauseous."
"Try sage." Suggested Hiccup, knowing a little about cooking, since that was one of his chores. Then he turned to Fishlegs, "While I'm out here, I may as well ask, what are you and Meatlug doing?"
"I thought we might play a wholesome game of toss the sheep, to show that Gronckles are very loving and careful creatures."
"Aw man!" Tuffnut shouted. "I was looking forward to seeing you do a flying trick, since you have the smallest dragon!"
"Sure, make fun of the fat kid on the little dragon! It's funny every time you do!"
Tuffnut laughed. "It really is."
"Well, I like your idea Fishlegs. It's unique, and I think it will go over well." Hiccup sighed in relief. "I think I can safely say that I'm confident that you guys will do well. I have to go, but I'll see you guys later."
"Hey Hiccup," spoke up Ruff. "Astrid's trick is pretty cool."
Hiccup simpered. "I figured it would be, she's Astrid after all."
"Were you going to go check on her?"
"I…I kinda assumed she'd have everything under control…"
"OH. I see how it is." Ruff crossed her arms. "Now that you've gotten yourself engaged, you don't have any time for Astrid."
"No! Oh Odin, no. I just meant that she was competent. Can we just not talk about that?" Truth is, he was trying to forget Astrid. Her rejection had hurt far more then he was willing to accept. "I'll see you guys later."
Hiccup stood on the docks. Animal fat in his hair to slick it back. He wore his jacket in best repair, and his leg was shined. He looked good, but no where as spiffy as he had looked for Astrid.
The large boat of Gaul soldiers and delegates pulled into place. A little ways off, Bucket and Mulch's dingy docked as well.
"Welcome! Welcome my friends!" Stoick greeted with his booming voice.
The first man off the boat was the Chief, Blackmold. His size was equal to that of Stoick, and his heartily laugh just as strong. "Stoick! My friend, it's great to be back in Berk!"
The two men laughed in gayety while others came off the boat, greeting the vikings. Finally, a large dark shadow descended from the ship. Her scraggily black hair stuck up in every direction. The hump that was on her back had gotten larger, and her smell preceded her, the smell of month old cheese and broken dreams.
Hiccup avoided breathing out of his nose and attempted to smile.
Her bulging eyes landed on the teen, as she snorted a glob of mucus back into her beak like nose. "Hiccup!" She cried with her masculine voice. She thundered down the ramp and lifted him off the ground, significantly cracking his back. "You haven't changed a bit. Still the tiny little weakling I remember!" She punched his arm, hard. "Although, you're missing a leg now…so you're even smaller!"
Hiccup kept smiling as the blows just kept coming. He allowed the insults to be tucked away deep, so not as to bother him. Then it was his turn. "Well, you've certainly…grown. You're much…fuller." He attempted to be polite. He had to look up to meet her face, since she was so tall.
"Aye," Stoick cut in, seeing his son blundering. "And your eyes aren't crossed anymore! Which way are you looking lass?" He laughed.
"I control one eye at a time, like a lizard." She smiled, focusing one eye on Stoick and one on Hiccup.
"It's the darnedest thing." Blackmold added. "She gets kicked with a mule, her eyes go crossed, she gets smacked with a hammer, they go the other way. One of Thor's mysteries."
Stoick laughed jovially as Hiccup was only able to stand stricken and filled with dread. Up on the ramp leading to the village, Astrid watched with a pit in her stomach. That was Darla? Oh, what had she done...?
"Well, why don't you give Darla a tour of the village, son? I'll get the men put up. Tonight, we have a feast for our friends!" The two chieftains continued on their joyful reunion while Hiccup barely contained his eye roll.
They started the tour, Hiccup going through the dull information on the seven generations of dragon slaying that he was always required to give his charge, when Darla interrupted. "That's nice, what happened to your leg?"
He was thrown off for a moment at her sudden question, but then he recovered. "I lost it in a battle with a dragon."
She laughed. "Yeah right, what really happened?"
"No, I'm serious. Did you guys not hear about it? It's big news up here…even our enemies know…My friend Astrid and I discovered a dragon Queen, as we call it, the Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus. The size of a mountain, six eyes and rows of razor sharp teeth! He commanded the dragons to bring back a kill or they would be eaten themselves."
"I see," she played along, "So how did you beat this sea monster?"
"Well, it's known that dragons produce a gas when they breath fire, and since this was a massive dragon, it had to produce an immense amount of gas, so we waited for the right timing and then Toothless shot a plasma blast into the dragon's mouth…"
"My dragon, a Nightfury." He said proudly.
"So the explosion caused this huge fireball, and as we were trying to escape, the dragon's tail came out of nowhere and knocked me off of Toothless, unconscious. When I woke up, I had the prosthetic. I was told that Toothless had dove after me and protected me."
A smile broke out in her rounded teeth and purple blistered lips as she began to laugh. "You haven't changed at all, Hiccup. Still tellin' wild and crazy stories."
"But I'm not making this up! Here, I'll show you!" By this time they were well into town. Hiccup whistled and from behind his longhouse came bounding the black dragon. It had taken two baskets of fish and some sincere pleading to get him to stay that morning, but apparently he didn't care. Toothless rushed to his owner and in a blink of an eye, changed his stance to protect his human. His tail wrapped around his tiny body as his pupils narrowed and a growl elicited from his mouth.
Darla stepped away from the dragon, but didn't run away screaming since she saw how friendly he was with Hiccup. The message from Stoick sprang to her mind as he mentioned that they were at peace with the dragons. He didn't say how or why, though.
"Toothless, be nice. This is Darla. She's a…friend."
The dragon would not be persuaded as he promptly vomited on the ground.
Darla sneered at him. "Well, you're not so great yourself, Helpless."
"It's Toothless." Hiccup resolutely corrected.
The dragon in mention suddenly perked up, catching a familiar scent (How? Really, it's amazing since Darla was so potent). He slipped between the buildings in a whirl and came out with Astrid in his mouth.
"Toothless! Put me down, right now! I mean it!"
Toothless did as commanded, right next to Hiccup, before hightailing it out of there. Darla looked the blonde over. "Eavesdropping?"
The axe wielder was silent.
Hiccup cleared his throat. "Darla, this is Astrid. Astrid, Darla."
The two girls had a stare down. Then the foreigner spoke up. "So, is this your girlfriend or something? Sorry, was. Since you know, you asked me here for a certain engagement." She spoke to Hiccup while looking at Astrid.
"No, just good friends." Astrid answered.
"Of course, Hiccup would never have a chance with you." She winked and glanced to the heavy axe on her back. "You'd probably kill him. Seeing as how annoying he can be sometimes."
Ever the chivalric one, Astrid narrowed her eyes. "For someone so ugly, you sure have a heart that matches."
"I happen to like Hiccup, just the way he is. He's a good man. You should be grateful for this arrangement. You'll never get a greater guy."
"I think you misspoke, good boy. Hiccup's a good boy."
Astrid's nose flared as she wretched her axe free. "Eat paint, wench!"
Hiccup took her arms. "Astrid, please…calm down. I think you've helped enough."
The pretty girl tucked her weapon away and nodded. "I see how it is. Okay. I'm sorry." she replied curtly.
The two old friends looked at each other in a heart wrenching glance that spoke volumes. There were so many misunderstandings between them, and both came to accept in that moment that the other didn't see anything more then friendship. Simultaneously, Hiccup and Astrid's hearts broke as the future without the other shone back at them.
"See you later, Hiccup." Astrid whispered.
"Goodbye…" He replied.
Darla, who was oblivious to the exchange grabbed Hiccup by the shoulder. "So I hope that lizard of yours is kept in a cage or something. Seems unstable, I don't know why you would keep a dragon as a pet. Even if they are peaceful now. Whoever decided that was a good idea must have had too many blows to the head, and I know about blows to the head..."
Hiccup, however, was not listening. He was watching Astrid retreat back into town. The box with the oath ring in his pocket knocked against his chest. As he glanced over to Darla's hands, he found them much too like…Snotlout's. The ring would never fit. He couldn't bare to see her wearing Astrid's ring anyway. With hope in his heart, he realized that he would have another chance to speak with her.
The feast came. Gaul's and Berkian's alike gathered at tables in the Great Hall. Mead and mutton were served, a gay time all around. But not all were in high spirits.
Hiccup looked like a toothpick as he sat next to his gargantuan father in the middle of the hall. The back wall, behind the fire place had been cleared for the academy's presentation. After a few bites of food, Hiccup was gestured to come an introduce the group by Gobber.
"Ladies and Vikings, friends and allies. It is with great pleasure as head of the Berk Dragon training academy to welcome you all here for a feast in honor of our friends, the Gauls!"
A round of applause.
"Tonight, the academy has prepared a presentation to entertain, and dare I say, educate you, in dragons of our people. As you may or may not know," he looked pointedly at Darla, "in the last few months, we have come to peace with the dragons on our island, by defeating the queen that so insnared them to a life of pillaging. Now, they are friends, pets, and part of our families. Please enjoy."
Another round of applause as he took his seat.
Gobber wobbled up to the front, a pink terrible terror on his shoulder. "Evenin', name's Gobber, and this is Toesnatch. Bein one of the smallest dragon's, she's a Terrible Terror. Despite her size, she can be quite the stinka. Terrors are quick and have sharp claws and teeth. Their fire skills are also very accurate, giving them the nickname, the snipers of the dragons. Terrors are a part of the Stoker class, but do not light themselves as other dragons in this type do. Now, I've only described what pests these dragons are, but they are also very useful. Allow me to demonstrate." He raised his arm and commanded his pet, "Toe, mead."
The lizard jumped from his arm, swooped over, grasped Stoick's mug in her tiny talons, and zipped back to her owner. "See? I didn' even have ta move. They're also handy when it comes to night time. Too dark to find the flint? Just give the tail a little yank and Wa-la! And when everythin's all said and done, you can relax with the terror, give her a little fish, scratch under her chin, and she'll love you forever." He bowed. "Thank you."
There was an applause as Stoick shouted, "can I have my drink back?!"
Meatlug galloped up front followed by a slightly shy Fishlegs. "Uh...hi." The chubby boy grinned. "Hi, Fishlegs here, and this is my Gronckle, Meatlug." The dragon nudged her owner and comforted him. His smiled widened. "The Gronckle is a part of the boulder class, as classified by her club-like tail, and her massive teeth and muscular jaw used for crushing rocks, chewing them up, and spitting them back out as lava."
There was a collective 'ooo' from the crowd.
"The Gronckle is one of the only dragons to fly forwards, backwards, side to side and even diagonal, do to its hummingbird-like wings. As seen by her wings, the Gronckle is not made for fast maneuvering in the air," then he leaned in closer to Meatlug, "no offense, girl.
"But look at the muscle in these legs! On the ground, the Gronckle is swift and very good at hiding. Her shot limit is six, but she can continue to spew lava after. They have a tendency to sleep a lot, even while flying."
Fishlegs reached over and hugged his precious friend. "Most of all, the Gronckle is a loving and motherly creature. Caring and great with kids!" He looked to the unimpressed Vikings. These tough burly men didn't really mind vicious pets.
Fishlegs wouldn't let it go, however. "To prove the gentleness of a Gronckle, Meatlug and I will play a simple game..."
A sheep waddled up to the boy before it was snatched up.
"…of Toss the sheep."
The crotchety old cabbage farmer from on top of the hill, affectionally known as Mildew, noticed the sheep, his sheep, and stood up in the back of the room. "Fungus!" He shouted.
"Ah," Gobber waved him down, "he'll love it."
Things were getting interesting as the crowd paid close attention. Fishlegs scurried to the other side of the room and, well, tossed the sheep. Meatlug caught it easily and flung it right back. All the while, the sheep bleated in terror as the crowd cheered like they were watching a sport.
"Fishlegs! Over here!" Snotlout called, getting involved.
After a few more tosses, Fungus landed back at Mildew's feet. A feeble 'meeaaa' and he fainted.
"Fungus!" The old man cried, kneeling by his pet.
"Eh," Gobber replied unsympathetically. "He'll be fine. Who's next?"
This is the one that Hiccup was dreading and looking forward to the most. The one he told himself he didn't need to worry about, but with her actions this morning...he was having second thoughts.
A muscle in his jaw involuntary clenched. His short fingernails scraped slowly against the fabric of his pants. His neck felt hot, was it the fire? His eyelids slid shut for a moment, longer then a blink, but not long enough for anyone to notice.
The blonde was speaking. She was describing her dragon, all the facts and trivia he knew about the Deadly Nadder, so it didn't seem to matter whether he listened or not. Problem is, the more he tried to focus, the less he understood. He heard her, her vibrant vocals, her curt consonances, every flick of her tongue against her teeth, he was keenly aware of them all. Though through all of it, not a word got through. She had a basket of linens, and was draping the clothes on the spikes on the Nadder's tail. As she moved, her bangs slid over her eye and concealed it from view, just until she dipped her head and it moved back into place. Hiccup was completely entranced by the moving flames that reflected in her eyes, so hypnotic, so…
The opposite wall of the hall was covered in Nadder spikes, each brandishing an article of clothing. Hiccup nearly had a heart attack as he had not seen it coming. He sat stiff as his dad clapped him on the back.
"Excellent show, boy!"
He turned his green eyes back to Astrid to see her bowing to the crowd and then retreating back. Snotlout was making his way up.
"Well, if you want Nadder splinters in your clothes, then go ahead. But I'm going to show you the true usefulness of a dragon…" He boasted.
Snotlout began his presentation, and it was mostly bull. Hiccup looked askance to Darla, relieved to find her very engrossed with what Snotlout was saying. With her not paying attention, he slipped back to where Astrid was sitting, where he finally got to speak with her.
She peered up at him. "Hey Hiccup." Good, she was cordial. "Show's gone over pretty well so far. Let's just hope Snotlout doesn't bore everyone to tears." She smiled at him. Gods how he hated that smile!
He opened his mouth to reply, but words ceased on his lips. He was afraid. He had always been afraid of Astrid, that's what attracted him to her in a sick sense. But this was different, he was treading on a very fragile thread, and any false step…there was no sort of recovery.
"Hiccup?" She asked when he had been silent for a full minute.
He swallowed hard. "A-A-Astrid…" He croaked, sounding like a prepubescent teen. He swallowed again and crouched next to her, sort of hiding. With a breath, everything came out in a rush. "I know what your answer was, and I'm not going to try and change that, but there is something very important I need to say anyway."
She pressed him to go on.
"I…" He pulled the box out of his coat and handed it to her. "I'm sorry. For everything. I hope that this will stand as an apology, and also serve to note that we can still be friends, no matter what."
"Please, don't say anything. Just take the gift…I was going to give it to you the night I proposed." He pulled at his collar. "Anyway…I made it just for you, and I would hate to see it go to waste."
She opened the little box and held up the band in the warm light, letting the red of the fires glisten off the superb craftsmanship. "Hiccup…It's beautiful…" As she raised her head to thank him, she found him gone. Like his Nightfury, gone without a trace.
Then she spotted him, walking with his head down up to the front while Toothless pranced proudly. Nothing was said as Gobber wheeled a cart up to the boy. Everyone watched in curiosity as Hiccup wielded a sword, dented, and held it in front of his dragon. Toothless opened his mouth an a blindingly bright blue flame ignited. The metal glowed a fierce orange and the crowd looked in awe.
Hiccup brought the blade down on the edge of the fire place and started to pound it out with a hammer.
"Toothless is a Nightfury, the unholy offspring of lighting and death. At night, he's practically invisible as shadow like as he is. Originally, we classified him in the mystery class, because no one had ever seen one before. Now, he's in the striker class, as shown by his plasma blast that he has demonstrated. Nightfurys have the largest wing to body ratio which allow them to fly faster, longer, and higher than any known dragon. They are also capable of vertical liftoff. But they are the most rare species, Toothless being the only one in existence that we know of."
He raised the blade again and another explosion of fire amazed the crowd.
"Nightfurys are extremely intelligent and independent creatures. From experience, they can understand what you say to them and communicate accordingly. They are very expressive, showing how they feel by their eyes and ear flaps, and whether or not they growl. The way I managed to train Toothless was by knocking him out of the sky with a bola. If I hadn't injured him, he would have flown away, ignoring me completely, but because he was trapped, he had no choice to except my aid."
Toothless laid his head on the warm stones and puffed heat onto the sword.
"He's loyal and a good friend. Just like me, he's unique, but unlike me, he's capable of taking down foes much larger then himself." He chuckled. To finish off the weapon, he submerged the scalding blade in water.
"It's not sharp because I don't have the grinder, but anyone want to survey my work?"
Blackmold stood, took the blade, and examined it. "It's excellent work!" He said in his booming voice. "I'll accept this as a gift, if you sharpen it later." He winked.
Hiccup blushed and pulled at his collar. Toothless nudged him, slightly lifting him off the ground. Hiccup scratched his nose.
"Most importantly, Toothless is the best friend I've ever had, and he's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me."
Grins were on everyone's faces, and tears in some eyes.
Someone spoke up from the crowd, their face blending into the sea of people. "How do you allow a dragon to be your best friend?"
The black dragon understood the question and growled in the general direction of the voice, and protectively wrapped his tail around his owner.
"Does that answer that your question?" He smirked.
Stoick laughed. "Okay okay, break it up. I guess that's it then?"
"Actually, there's one more dragon to present." Hiccup sat down next to his dad, Toothless laying at his feet.
The chief watched in horror as the twins came up front with the zippleback.
"You let them go last?"
"Well, we were going by size, but then Snotlout wanted to go, and..."
"Never mind, I don't want to hear any excuses." Stoick held up a hand.
"They'll be fine. There's nothing for you to worry about." Hiccup shrugged.
"But you do." The chief said stoically, looking to Darla.
"Why don't you go get it over with? I'll take care of these two."
The boy sighed and stood.
Ruffnut and Tuffnut were starting, nervousness rolling of in waves. The only time they were in front of the crowd like this was when they destroyed something. Even then, they would just run away laughing. Tuffnut spoke robotically. "Hello, my name is Tuffnut, this is my sister Ruffnut, and this is our Zippleback, this head is Barf, and this head is Belch."
Stoick put his hand on his head. This couldn't end well.
Hiccup tapped Darla on the shoulder and then whispered. "Would you like to come on a walk with me?"
The ogre rolled her eyes but stood up, none the less. The two made their way outside.
Out in the cold, Hiccup and Darla walked side by side in painfully awkward silence. He was shaking, but he was unsure if it was from the cold or fear. He cracked his neck and looked at her.
"I know we haven't known each other long..."
"I'm going to stop you right there, Tiny."
"I know why your father sent for me, and frankly, I'm offended."
"So Stoick thinks I won't be able to get a husband by myself. Okay, so maybe I'm eligible, extremely eligible, but that doesn't mean I need his help."
"Shut it." She snapped. "Hiccup, you're a nice boy. You're kind, smart, but lets face it, we're not going to work. I need a man. A real man, and frankly, you're just a little boy. You're immature and imaginative. You claimed that your best friend was a dragon! What does it say about you if the only thing you relate to is a heartless lizard?"
"Not done. You're tiny, scrawny, weak, a...all over pathetic excuse for a man. I need someone who can protect me, not a one-legged ninety-pound wimp incapable of taking care of himself."
Hiccup stood silent and slack jawed.
"My point is, no, I will not marry you. No, we can't be friends." She placed a comforting, huge hand on his shoulder. "I know rejection Hiccup. I've only been here one day, and I've never seen so many glances of pity and scorn than I've seen here, directed at you, behind your back. No one wants you as a husband, no one wants you as a chief."
Hiccup's lips trembled as he fought to speak. His eyes narrowed in anger. "How would you know?"
"Think of it like this: if you were a big burly viking, would you want the smallest of the tribe as the leader? Or the largest?"
He hated to admit it, but she was right. Oh how she was right!
"They only tolerate you because you're the chief's kid. Trust me, I know."
With that, the ugly girl left him to his misery. Hiccup's feet were frozen to the ground.
Hiccup had the brain of a genius, by no stretch of the imagination was he stupid. Foolish, true sometimes. His mind was analytical, organized, compartmentalized. Things always had their place. Such was the segment for insults and abuse. It was a quintessential iron cage, back in the far reaches of his mind. Every screw up and painful memory was stashed away, presumed to be forgotten. But Hiccup never forgot. He couldn't, not a word. While his entire life, he had brunt punches to the arm, shouts of stupidity; never once did he cave. Never did he let them bother him.
Until this evening. What Darla had said had been the breaking point. The iron walls burst and a flood of memories washed over him. He felt anger, heartache, betrayal, and even a touch of hate. The emotions trapped inside his heart burned passionately, like the smelted iron ore he poured at the forge. This night, something developed inside of Hiccup that no one could expect or understand.
On the outside, Hiccup's cheeks colored and his mouth set into a firm line. He stood up straight, straighter then ever before. He would not back down, not anymore.
Calmly, he walked back into the great hall, only a few minutes behind Darla.
As the doors opened, he was brought back to reality when a huge fireball ignited and stunned the crowd. Ruffnut swung a shank forward and chicken flambé went soaring through the air like a great meteor before landing perfectly on Blackmold's plate. It looked good enough, smelled divine, so without knowing any information on the twins and their reputation, he pulled off the wing and bit into it.
"The Zippleback chicken…" He stood, holding up the meat. "Truly is delicious!"
The twins howled in success before head butting each other, clanging their helmets together.
Seeing the presentation over, Hiccup stepped over to the table. To his dismay, Stoick stood and put an arm around his son.
"My friends, I have an announcement!"
Immediately, Astrid caught the look on her friend's face and realized something was very wrong. That wasn't the face of embarrassment, it was rage. And she had never seen it on his face before. Toothless sat up as he could feel it.
"My son is engaged!" Stoick shouted. The crowd burst into cheers in congratulations.
"She said no." Hiccup spoke, naught above a whisper.
He heard it thought. "What? What did you say?"
He broke from his father's grasp. "SHE SAID NO!" He screamed.
The hall went silent in awkwardness.
"She didn't even give me a chance, she cut me off!" He noticed the looks he was getting from his father and the Gaul visitors and choose his words carefully. "I…she said we would be a bad match. I-I don't deserve her." The lies fell like acid from his lips.
Stoick still didn't notice his son's changed state. "It's okay, we'll find you another bride..."
"NO!" He grabbed a plate from the table and hurled it to the ground in an uncharacteristic temper tantrum.
"Settle down laddie…" Gobber came and placed his arm around his shoulder. "It'll be alright…"
"Don't touch me!" The teen slipped from the viking's grasped and backed away until he was by the door. All eyes were on him. "Don't you see? No girl will take me as a husband. No citizen wants me as a chief! I don't understand why everyone keeps pretending like I'm normal! I've never been normal! It took me loosing my leg and killing a dragon to get some recognition around here! Before that, I was the screw up! But you know what? I'm still Hiccup, and I'm still being treated like the runt I am! But at the same time, you keep putting all these hopeless responsibilities on my shoulders, and it's tearing me apart!"
He turned and looked at everyone he had ever known. "I don't belong here. I never have. I trained a dragon, a Nightfury of all! I created a tail based on lift, drag, weight, and thrust, by studying continuum flow fields characterized by properties of velocity, pressure, density and temperature. Everything I just said has never been thought of before, but it's the reason why dragons can fly, and I discovered it! So what does that get me? Outcasted as a consort with the 'enemy'! No one believed in me! Not until I killed a dragon! I had to fulfill tradition, as much as you all deny it, that's the only way I was accepted!"
As hard as he fought, he found his jaw trembling and tears pricking at his eyes.
"Darla was right, it says a lot about me that the only thing that relates to me is a dragon. Toothless is the only one who excepted me for who I am. And it all makes sense now. No one wants a tiny, scrawny, weak, one-legged, ninety-pound wimp incapable of taking care of himself around." He quoted Darla's harsh words.
His eyes jumped across the faces until he saw a familiar blonde in the back. She had a hand covering her mouth; Hiccup thought she was laughing. "AND YOU! Astrid! I asked you first, because I trusted you! I thought you finally understood my point of view. I-I love you, Astrid. I always have. You're beautiful, kind, and caring, but you're also brave, strong, and intimidating…everything I ever wanted to be. I thought that you of all people would understand what I was going through. But I guess I was wrong."
Then he addressed the crowd again. "If admitting all of this makes me weak, then who cares? Because I don't. I'm always weak. So I'll save you all the pain."
He finished his speech, looking right at his father. "I secede from the Hooligan tribe. Find yourself a new heir."
With that, he pulled the great doors open and disappeared into the night. An arctic wind burst in as the flames in the hall went out.