Astrid stared dismally at the oak doors. They were more then just a barrier to the cold, they were a barrier to her best friend. How did things come to this?
The black dragon solemnly scratched at the panels to go out.
"Toothless…" Astrid called.
He saw her sadness and understood that his master needed to be alone. He sauntered over to the blonde and placed his head in her lap. She scratched his head as he crooned. "It'll be okay, Toothless. We'll straighten everything out." She hoped.
"So, this is your fault." A voice claimed. Toothless hissed and raised his tail to attack.
Astrid simply glanced up at the intruder. "How's it my fault? I had no idea that he…" As she spoke, she felt the ring on her fourth finger. She was right. "Well, I didn't know he would take it so harsh. And I'm not the only one at fault. You said that his friendship with Toothless was bad. But Toothless is the greatest friend anyone could have. I wish I had found him first." She continued to pet the dragon in an attempt to calm him down.
"Well, if you hadn't been so selfish, I wouldn't have even had to be involved."
"Me selfish? EXCUSE ME!?" Astrid stood, menacingly.
"Yeah. He asked you first, you should have just said yes."
"Listen missy, I've been close with Hiccup since he trained Toothless. I've known him my whole life. If there's something I know about him, it's that he's always calm and he doesn't care about his size. He always does his best! What he said tonight, that was not him talking. Someone put those ideas in his head. And I tend to believe it was you."
"I just told the truth, if he couldn't handle it, that's his own fault."
Darla suddenly found herself on her back, blood dripping from her nose. Astrid stood over her, looking like a spawn from Jotunheim. "You broke him, and for that, I will never forgive you."
The troll was forgotten as Astrid headed to the door. "Come on Toothless, let's see if we can comfort our friend."
The dragon perked up in the thought of his rider and the two went out together. Astrid first checked the Haddock home, but finding it empty, she supposed he would chose a place more sequestered. With the pale glow coming from the forge, the young viking trotted over and knocked at the main door. No answer. Dissatisfied, she hopped the counter and went inside. The forge was empty, only weapons and fires inside. She then remembered the back room filled with Hiccup's sketches. Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw the door to the room shut, as it almost never was.
She knocked. "Hiccup? Please…I know you're in there. Please, just let me in. Let's talk this out. I didn't know you felt so strongly…Hiccup, I thought it was just an obligation. I would never have said those things if I had known."
There was still no reply. "Hiccup?" She gulped. His speech ran through her head, making her grow cold.
"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 couldn't have… "Find yourself a new heir."
"Hiccup, for Thor's sake, answer me!"
Still no reply. Fear rising in her blood, she gripped the handle and tugged, luckily finding it unlocked. "HICCUP!"
A lit candle sat at his desk. He had been there, and not too long ago. Astrid looked over the contents of the desk and saw one of Toothless' tails. This one looked different from the others…it had gears on it, and no rods or ropes. Then she noticed there was a note next to it.
This is a tail I made for Toothless a while ago that he can use without a rider. I don't want my absence to be a burden for him. I have left instructions to attach it. Please take care of him. He won't understand…no one will.
Astrid ran back to the great hall, note in hand.
As I had said before, Hiccup was incredibly smart, but could be foolish on occasion. Such as now. Logic and reasoning had gone out the door and he was fulling riding on raw emotions he was unused to. Under the cover of night and fog, Hiccup stole away on a old rickety dingy. He took no provisions or supplies, and he left his leg on shore. His goal; to paddle as far away from Berk as possible. If he was lucky, he would drift right off the edge of the earth. Yes, Hiccup was done.
He paddled with the tides, riding the current as long as possible. He knew he would get tired, but he just needed to get far enough away where no one would find him.
Hiccup rubbed his eyes as the fresh tears continued to fall. "Stop crying…" He told himself. "It's not going to do any good."
Anyway, he pulled the paddle into the boat and rested his head on his knee. The teen allowed himself to cry, to just let out the anguish he felt. No one could see him, no one would judge. The drops of his salty tears soaked into the fabric on his pants.
When he raised his eyes, blurry lights were dancing in the water. He swiped his cheeks and leaned over the surface. Upon further discovery, he found tiny sea dragons, similar to the Fireworms, but under water. They glowed brightly; blues, greens, and even purples. It was calming. He gently dipped his finger in the glasslike surface, sending ripples. The dragons gathered at his finger, examining it. None bit or attacked, but swam against his skin. Hiccup rested his head on the wooden edge of the boat and allowed the little dragons to nip at his fingers.
In the silence, an old lullaby tugged at his lips. Without much thought, the words rolled off his tongue.
Swimming goes thy shadow,
in the dark, dawn of the morning.
We steal away into the night,
Onward, without warning.
Left behind thine homeland,
So dauntless and bright.
Here onto never,
We swim in the dark delight…
Our pathways are hiding,
in the dark dawn of the morning.
There is nothing to guide us,
Onward, without warning.
Forget all thy burdens,
Travel all through the night.
Whatever lies before us,
We will be alright…
The boy was soon asleep, the boat continued into silence.
"Hiccup?" There was a knock at the door. "Please, I know you're in there. Please, just let me in. Let's talk this out. I didn't know you felt so strongly…Hiccup, I thought it was just an obligation. I would never have said those things if I had known..."
He sat up. The faint light of the flickering candle only illuminated his desk. He wiped his tears, but said nothing. He didn't want to speak to anyone.
"Hiccup?" The door creaked open as his favorite blonde entered. "Hey," She spoke softly, closing the door behind her.
He looked away in shame, but she approached him.
"You have nothing to be ashamed of, Hiccup. You stood up for yourself, that takes unmeasurable strength to do." She leaned over him, bracing her knees on the chair on which he sat. "You needn't shed any tears." She dusted her fingers over his freckled cheeks.
He spared a smile for her. Even in this dream world, he could see her crystal clear. Her sky blue eyes, golden hair, radiant smile. She was perfect to him, and that's all that ever mattered.
"Thank you Astrid." He whispered.
Closer still she came. Her arms around his neck, fingers laced to crown. Cheek to cheek, she held him in the dim room. He, however, couldn't find the strength to return the embrace. "Will they forgive me?"
"I do." She confirmed.
As if to prove her words, Astrid pressed her lips to his. This was different from the previous embraces they had. This one was deeper, more passionate. There was an unspoken feeling between them, and Hiccup couldn't help but smile in realization of what it was.
She loves me.
Hiccup blinked his eyes open to see the vastness of blue sky stretching out in front of him. So, it was just a dream. Astrid hadn't come after him, no one had. He had enough time to slip into the forge, and leave a note without anyone noticing. This lonely thought veiled over his mind as he stared into the sky. The sound of the boat coming to a halt had woken him. Should he move it? Or should he just lie here and wait to starve to death? He sighed and sat up, at least he would figure out where he was.
Before he had the chance to observe his surroundings, a hand clapped over his mouth and dragged him out of the boat. He struggled, but was no match for the burly man holding him. Something sharp pricked his neck and soon he was out again.
Blindingly bright light. White space. Blood pulsing in his ears. Whispers. Hiccup attempted to breathe, but nothing happened. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't remember how to breathe. Only the sounds of choking and groping for air could be heard from his mouth. He stared deep into the abyss.
So…is this how I die? Did I reach the end of the world?
Everything seemed heavy to him, like thousands of pounds of rock sat upon him. No, this wasn't right, this had to be a dream. It had to be. He willed his eyes shut, opened his mouth wide, and let the air flow.
There was a shout, but it was more like a gurgle. He tried again, and this time more of scream came out. Whatever had paralyzed his throat had now passed and he breathed furiously, trying to suck in as much air as possible. He was awake finally, but his vision was blurred and cotton was in his ears. His mind was spinning as warbled voices spoke. Maybe not to him, but near him. Hiccup was still pinned to the ground, not by any physical thing, but just by the inability to move.
"…just getting out of the sense phase. Should be able to hear soon." A man said.
Hiccup rapidly blinked his eyes. Things were still blurred, but he could make out the general setting. He was in a cage, wooden. He laid on his back on the floor. By the sensations he was feeling, he had been stripped of his clothes. Other then that, everything was accounted for. His limbs, his hair, everything checked out. He was exhausted, yet felt like he hadn't moved in ages. His good leg was cramping, a pin prick feeling to his foot. Beads of sweat collected on his skin and he could smell the odor rolling off of him. His eyes watered as sight had yet to be restored him, while his lids were caked with crud. His nose ached, dry from heavy breathing. Chapped lips cracked apart.
He tried to speak yet again, to ask where he was. Instead, a gurgle came out as he foamed at the mouth like a wild dog.
Very attractive, to say the least.
"Aw there 'e is!" A gruff voice spoke in a condescending tone. "The little scamps up! Only took two days, not bad! That Nadder venom is sure a bitch, huh? Ya know, normally if you just prick yourself with them, you get the dry heaves. But this stuff? WHHO! Just that concentrated dose in your neck and your good as dead."
Hiccup breathed asthmatically.
"Yeah, you wouldn't be able to talk much yet for awhile. And once you start movin' then it'll really suck! There's a bucket on your left, when you have to vomit."
Hiccup started to see the man more clearly, a stranger. Older man, scruffy, eye patch, looked a bit like a pirate.
"Betcha wonderin' where ya are. Welp, you washed up on the wrong island boy! Welcome to the Outcasts!"
Hiccup's eyes grew wide in fear. If he was on Outcast island, it would only be a matter of time before he was brought in front of Alvin. He would refuse to help the tribe leader of course, but then it was inevitable that he would have a long, slow, and painful death by his hand.
"Well," The scruffy man added. "We're the Outcast Atolls. See, Outcast island is for the guys that have been cast out or ran away for one reason or another. They pillage other countries and slowly get wives and children. The people of this island are affiliated with the Outcasts but aren't actually apart of the tribe." He scratched his chin, "mostly older men, who become farmers, women, and children. The safe part of the Outcasts."
That was relieving. Still, hopefully no one would recognize him here. Now that he knew where he was, he just had to find out why.
"Why-...?" Is all he could get out before his body seized up and he lunged for the bucket. He emptied the little bit his stomach held.
"Lars, are you talkin' to the new kid?" Another voice called.
"Yeah, makes them recover faster."
"What are you tellin' him?"
"Just where he is!"
"He should know where he is! If his boat washed up, he must have been aimin' for us!"
The man named Lars waved off the other voice with a 'bah!' And then looked back to Hiccup.
The boy had somewhat recovered, sitting up, but still extremely nauseous. He blinked a few times, a soft delirium still draped on his mind.
"Can you hear me?" The man asked, more stern.
"Answer with words."
"Yes…I can hear you." His voice was raw.
"Inga!" Lars shouted. "He's ready."
"Bring him over!"
The wooden cage door creaked open and the scruffy man came in. He wasn't huge, but still large enough to pick up Hiccup…if he wanted to. "Stand up."
The teen struggled as the room swayed. Only having one leg made it difficult to stand, but he gripped the bars to pull himself up. Apparently he was taking too long as Lars grabbed his arm and yanked him up.
The man surveyed his leg. "You're recent to amputation, aren't you?"
"About a year."
"And every day feels like the first." He rolled his eyes. "Heard it before. How'd you lose it? You seem pretty young for a viking battle wound."
"Dragon." Hiccup shrugged.
"Aye." The man said.
Hiccup was led, gripped by the shoulder, to a wooden table with hinges. A very angry looking woman (if you could call her that) stood with her arms crossed looking him over. At this point, Hiccup was painfully aware of his surroundings and the fact that he was naked. He felt small, and he tensed at the woman's glance.
"This is the new one." It was a question, but sounded like a statement.
"Yeah, tiny thing isn't he?"
She snorted. "Put him on the table."
Hiccup felt awkward having them speak like he wasn't in the room. On the table, they strapped him down with leather rope. As if he was going anywhere.
The woman had a thick book in her arms with a quill. "Age?"
"Uh, almost 16." Hiccup answered.
She raised her eyebrow. "Do you suffer with any problems with your heart, breathing, or back and joints?"
"No, I'm okay."
"Any loss of limbs or senses?" She glanced down. "Besides your leg?"
"Ever suffer from pox, leprosy, or dysentery?"
"I had pox as a child…"
She scribbled some stuff down. "Have you been isolated to one area, or do you travel?"
"Any sexual experience?"
He blushed. "No."
"Any idea if you are fertile?"
He blushed harder. "No idea..."
"Are you trained to fight?"
"I am, but I'm not any good."
"Can you cook, clean, mend and other house hold work?"
"Can you farm and do field work?"
"I can, but I'm slow."
More writing. "Do you have any skill sets in trade?"
"I apprenticed for a blacksmith, and I am proficient in leather craft."
Her lips quirked in a morbid smile. "Education?"
"Full. I can read and write."
"Last question, how are you with dragons?"
The boy under question decided it would be an opportune time to tell a half-baked lie. "I can manage with them. Killed one, and he took my leg."
She nodded and wrote some information. Strangely, she never asked his name or where he was from.
"Alright, you can begin the examination." She told someone else. This second man looked closely at Hiccup, narrowing his eyes as he scanned the boy's body. He removed different straps and had him flex muscles while he held down the limb, a test of strength. He scoffed at invisible marks and flaws. The man was thorough with his examination, going as far as judging his genitals, making Hiccup tense and even more uncomfortable then he imagined he could be.
The man finally finished scrutinizing him and took the book. "He's a home type. He'll need a ten inch prosthetic if he gets out."
"Only a home type? But he has blacksmithing skills."
"Let his master be the one to decide what use that is." Then he looked to the man called Lars. "Clean him up."
Hiccup decided to take this opportunity to ask the question in his head. "Excuse me, what about my name?"
The woman raised an eyebrow. "Ah," she glanced at the book. "Wart."
"What? No, my name is-…"
"We don't care what your name was in the past, nor who you were or where you came from. You could have been the Roman Emperors' son, but we could care less. You're Wart now, welcome to the Thrall."
Hiccup's blood went cold. The Thrall, that explained everything. He was suddenly very full of regret of leaving home, especially with what the future held now.
He had heard of it. Some of the places he visited had it. But Stoick had never seen a use for slaves, and he didn't think it was morally right. Because of this, Hiccup had never put a lot of thought into them. But now…
"No." His mouth blurted.
The main trader's eyebrows raised in surprise. "No? You think you have a choice?"
Hiccup was feeling brave. "I'm the son of a chief, I won't be sold as a slave."
A sharp sting shot against his cheek as the man backhanded him. "You should have thought of that before running away!"
"How did you know that I ran away?"
"Why would a chief's son be exiled?" He hissed.
The table he was on suddenly tilted. A flap by his foot folded up to support his weight while a flap by his neck folded down to liberate his head. The three slave traders approached him with various blades, making him gulp in fear. Unable to fight against them, he clenched his eyes and waited. Thankfully, they were only shaving him. Yet again, they surprised him by being thorough, removing hair not only from his head, but his arms, legs, and everywhere else on his body.
"Lars, mark him." The head man ordered.
Hiccup kept his eyes shut.
A sharp pain pricked his chest and his eyes shot open. The man had a small knife and was making shallow, close cuts in Hiccup's breast. He worked fast but whatever this so called mark was, it was extensive and took up one side of his chest. As he worked, Inga took a long thin nail out of a case of embers and pierced his ear. He shouted as he heard his skin sizzle, but it didn't stop there. The metal was still soft and malleable. She bent it so it wrapped around his lobe, and then pierced him again, crossing the points so the tag was not easily removed.
By this time, Lars had finished his job and was rubbing ash into the cuts, making a tattoo. The remnant blood left over on his skin came into the mix and gave the mark a deep red color. Hiccup could only guess it was the Outcast insignia.
"How does he look?"
"Like the rest of them." The leader spoke. "A bit young for not being born into it."
"Do you think he's in exile?"
"Runaway. You know how kids are these days."
They acted like he wasn't there or he was some sort of animal. Hiccup reasoned, he basically was now.
"How much do you think he's worth?" Asked Lars.
"I wouldn't put more than a yak on him, if he gets sold."
"Worst comes to worst, we can make him a pleasure slave."
Inga snorted. "Right."
Hiccup physically shrunk away as the thought of some strange woman crawling all over him, touching him, and doing things made his skin crawl.
Lars handed him a bowl of cold broth and a chunk of lembas bread. "You haven't eaten in a while. Can't have a skimpy product."
He excepted it gratefully and devoured it with relish.
The leader looked him in the eye, narrowing his own, "Obviously you have no idea how this works. So here's a quick run down. Don't speak unless spoken to, and if you have something to say, bow low at the waist before addressing your master. They reserve the right to punish you however they want, whether it's physical, verbal, or emotional. You are to obey absolutely everything they ask. They also reserve the right to trade you back to us, and if that happens, you will be very, very sorry. Is that understood?"
His cheek throbbed as Hiccup fervently nodded, his voice gone.
Two days he spent in a cage with other slaves, curled in a small mass, hiding away. The others switched out on a daily basis. They were either bought or traded with older slaves. None of them acknowledged him. They were emotionless, inhuman. Hiccup watched them as they waited for the next master to purchase them, and then left. They were truly broken, and sheer trepidation over came him. He would not let that happen to him.
Finally, a old man with a cane approached the cage he was in. He scrutinized him, and then called over Lars. "What about this little one?"
"Ah that's Wart. No experience."
"He's a home type."
"Huh, a male home type! That's not so common. Oh, I see, he's handicapped." The man came closer. "Any skills?"
"Blacksmithing, and leather working. Though, I don't know how helpful that would be to you, Ragnar."
"Ah, he's for my wife." He hacked. "She's been harping me about getting her a helper."
Lars laughed. "I was wondering why you'd been been interested in him, since you have Mud."
Mud? Hiccup wondered.
"Best slave I've ever had. He's the equivalent of five men. Where did you get him?"
"Trade from a trade of a trade…I don't know know his origins."
"Hmm…" The old man looked back to Hiccup. "He's pretty young."
"You could get lots of time out of him."
The older man tilted his head and seemed to weigh it in his head. "How about two chickens and a sheep?"
"Make it three chickens and you have a deal."
Hiccup perked up in surprise as the door to the cage opened. "Wart. You're out of here."
The teen stood up and hopped out. Lars retrieved a prosthetic for him, and he put it on. It didn't fit like his old one, and it was wooden and rickety, but it worked.
The old man looked him over. "You'll work fine."
Hiccup remembered what the leader had told him and bowed low before speaking. "Thank you, sir."
He was guided over to a table where a transaction was taking place. "Alright, I have you down for three chickens and a sheep. Do you have your seal?"
The old man took out a small metal stamp and handed it to the man. Lars then stuck it in coals to heat it. As far as Hiccup knew, seals were made by heating the wax, not the stamp. But he didn't question his new masters. To his joy, Inga brought over a loin cloth and tied it around his waist for him. The boy smiled in thanks.
The seal was heated and picked up by a pair of tongs.
"Inga, hold him still, will you?" Lars asked.
Two large hands clamped down on his shoulders. The scalding metal crashed into his skin, just below his new tattoo, branding him. Hiccup winced as the man held it much too long. The teen grew dizzy from the pain, but refused to show any outwards evidence of it.
"You're all set, hope your wife likes her present."
"Aye, I hope so too!" The old man's grip was strong as he steered Hiccup along. "I won't put up with any shenanigans. Act up, and you will face the consequences. Is that understood?"
Hiccup bowed his head low. "Yes, sir."
"Good." Ragnar ushered the boy over to a waiting cart. A large man stood guard, a very large man.
"Wart, this is my other slave, Mud. He's as dumb as a mule, doesn't speak anything coherent, but he does what he's told and doesn't talk back. Hard worker, he is. Take notes."
Hiccup's eyes were wide as he stared at the giant before him. His size made Stoick look like a dwarf. It made sense why they called him Mud, as his skin was dark. Hiccup concluded that it matched a fine, rich leather more than Mud, but held his tongue. He had never seen someone with skin such a color before. The man's eyes were almost black, and three scars ran from his brow to the back of his head, only to be held shut by a metal strip. He also had a tattoo on his bulging chest, but of an unfamiliar tribe insignia. Under, dozens of brands decorated his chocolate skin. It was puzzling, if Mud was such a great slave, why had he been traded so many times?
"Mud, say hello to your new co-worker, Wart."
The large black man opened his mouth and a rich baritone belted out, "Hujambo."
The mystery was figured out, Mud didn't speak Norse.
Thankfully, Hiccup's best friend didn't speak it either.