Astrid angrily stabbed her porridge with her spoon. She sat on the steps the great hall, where she had been sitting for the last three hours. A sign hung on the door, indicating the meeting was private and no one was allowed to enter. Astrid's mother had brought her food since she was obstinate on hearing the outcome.
It wasn't fair, she was honorary substitute hope and heir to the Hooligan tribe. That should have gotten her into that meeting! Right?
The only ones allowed in were Stoick, Gobber, and Spitelout from the Hooligan tribe, and Wart, Mwaba, and Savage from the Outcasts. Equal and even representation. So it made sense that she was sequestered outside. But as soon as that door opened, she was going to pry all information she could out of the chief.
The doors opened and the three Outcasts came out, the door shutting behind them. Mwaba and the chief were chatting as Savage went away without a word.
"I dunt dink dey take me seriously." Mwaba stated. "Es it de way I look?"
"I doubt it. It might be your accent though, it can be hard to understand sometimes."
"Well, wat do I do aboot it?"
"You just have to practice your Norse. Try saying this; how many boards would a Mongol hoard, if a Mongol hoard hoarded boards."
"'ow many whores wod a mongrel bored ef ah…mongrel boar bored whores."
Hiccup was silent for a moment until a choking laugh came out. "Yep, you got it."
Astrid approached the two.
"Astrid! You look radiant this morning!"
She ignored him. "How is the meeting? Where's Stoick?"
"Oh, dey are still in meetin'."
"They want to discuss some stuff, so they kicked us out."
Astrid huffed. "Figures, men."
"Since we have some time to spare, do you think I could see the academy?"
Astrid groaned. "Fine! Sure, let's go." She picked up her bowl and stormed back to her house.
"Do yoo dink she es angry?"
"What gave you that idea?" Hiccup rolled his eyes.
"Well, de shoutin' and de way she said-…"
"Dear Odin, Mwaba, I was being sarcastic."
"I 'aven't gotten to dat lesson yet."
"I've been teaching you for six months and I never got to sarcasm? It's like a second language to me!"
"I tought dat Swahili was your second language?"
"Oh sweet mother of Thor…"
Out at the ring, Mwaba stayed outside and watched from the top while Wart joined the teen's studying on the inside. The lesson that Fishlegs was giving halted when the leather bound man stepped into the ring.
"Look who showed up!" Said Snotlout to Astrid.
"Can it, maggot face!"
"I thought you were going to try to get in on the treaty meeting?" Asked Fishlegs.
"They wouldn't let me! And besides, I knew you guys were dying to talk to this guy." She pointed at Wart with her thumb.
"I have a name."
"Yeah, after a disgusting skin growth."
Actually, after a involuntary diaphragm spasm. But he wasn't about to correct her.
"So, are you going to show us some of your cool moves?" Asked Tuffnut.
"I thought you were going to show me how to train a dragon?"
"Aw man, come on! We've been sitting here all day! Just show us one move!" Snotlout begged.
Hiccup was not used to having him beg, and thought it was a nice change of pace. "Alright," he snapped his fingers like a chief. "Bring me a sword!" He commanded.
The bulky teen hurriedly rushed to the weapons room in the back of the arena. Astrid crossed her arms and took a seat on a barrel. She hated to admit it, but she was excited to see Outcast fighting techniques. Toothless had come to sit beside Mwaba up top, and no one but the Zambian noticed.
As Snotlout scrounged around for a weapon intact, Hiccup withdrew a pouch from his belt. The twins watched in curiosity as he took out a handkerchief and put some liquid from the pouch on it.
"This was the only one not dented." Snotlout came back and handed him the sword.
Hiccup recognized it as one of the ones he made, but it was likely no one else knew. "It's a fine blade. My compliments to the smith." He then began to rub the cloth on the surface of the weapon. "What I am about to show you is not practical in the battle field, except for intimidation. It was created by yours truly." He tucked the cloth away. "I call it 'dragon's son'."
Unknown to anyone, Hiccup had constructed his gloves with flint in the fingertips, so that a spark would ignite upon a snap. He undid one of the clasps on his mask so that his mouth was freed, took a quick swig from the pouch, and raised his blade in a pensive stance. The teens watched in wonder as he placed one foot over the other and waited.
"What is this? Some sort of meditation-…?"
Hiccup cut him off by spinning once and coming out of his turn by spewing the liquid from his mouth and snapping his fingers. The result was a giant fireball that engulfed the blade. The young dragon trainers were in awe as he deftly twirled the sword in his hand as if it was a rope. The flames licked at his leather, but he remained calm as he twisted the blade to fly up behind his back, caught it backwards and then flung it at high speed so it stuck to the wooden board.
His eyes were wide as cheers and praises poured from the teens. At first, their reactions went unnoticed, he was too surprised by how well that had gone off. Of course he had practiced it quite a few times, but it had never gone off so flawlessly before. He was impressed, with himself!
Snotlout came up ranting and raving. "You've got to show me how to do that! That was so cool! With the flames and the sword-…"
"I'd ask to learn it, but I'd probably set my lips on fire. I've done it before, but the recovery period made it less fun." Stated Tuffnut.
Hiccup snapped himself out of his trance and cinched his mask shut. "Maybe some other time. Alright, you've had your trick, let's learn!"
Fishlegs spoke up. "We were just having a lesson on what to expect from other foreign dragons."
"Oh, by all means, continue. I'll just observe." Wart took a seat on one of the crates and listened.
"Okay, who knows the average shot limit of a dragon?"
There was silence as Snotlout sat with his head on his arm, Tuffnut with his finger up his nose, and Ruffnut down for the count.
"Astrid?" Fishlegs sighed. Apparently, he had asked one her too many times.
"It's six." She rolled her eyes.
Hiccup just had to, just HAD to! He let out a sniggering snort at her answer. She turned and looked offended. "What is it?"
"I'm sorry," he cleared his throat. "It's just that you gave the mode, not the mean."
He got five sets of blank stares before pushing off the seat. "Here, let me explain." He took the chalk from Fishlegs. "Six is the most common occurring shot limit belonging to dragons, accounting for four types of dragons. That would be the average for those four. Now, if a Changewing has a shot limit of ten and a Deadly Nadder has eleven, the average shot of those two is not going to be six. So we list the shot limits of the dragon types we know of. Fireworm two, gronckle six, Zippleback six, Monstrous Nightmare ten…" And he started to write a list of all the dragons and their shot limits, directly from memory. Soon he had a full list of known dragons written on the board. "So if you add up all of them, you get a total of 147. So then you divide it by the number of dragon types and you get…" His fingers twitched as he mentally did the math. "Eight point one six seven. Or roughly forty-nine sixths."
Snotlout moaned. "We had to put up with this with Hiccup! Now we have it from the new guy? Boring!"
Hiccup reeled for a moment. He let his perfectionist and intellectual nature get the best of him. It was just a matter of time before they figured it out. Then again, three out of five of them were morons, so really, the steaks weren't that high.
"How did you have all those statistics memorized?" Asked Fishlegs in wonder.
Think Hiccup, you've been able to lie your way out of these things before. "The book of Dragons. Alvin has a book that is filled with information of Dragons. I memorized it." Then he placed his hands dangerously behind his back. "After all, knowledge is power."
There was a long silence as what he had just said resonated with them. Not perhaps his words, but the way he said them. It reminded all of them that this man was still a part of the Outcasts, their chief. And they were all acting chummy with him. As apparent by his sword handling skills, he was very dangerous.
Astrid then spoke up. "Do you know where he got that book?"
"I'm afraid I haven't the slightest." Wart replied.
"He stole it. He blackmailed a girl to come into our tribe and steal it. Hiccup wrote most of the stuff in that book!"
"Fret not my dear Astrid. In all honesty, Alvin didn't understand half the stuff in that book anyways."
"Where is it now?" She asked with clenched teeth.
"Why don't you search me?" He teased. Where in Migard had this flirtatious demeanor come from? He didn't mind it, he liked seeing Astrid flustered, because he was never able to do that to her before. It was…empowering. She blushed and turned away from him. "So, if that's it, I've got some things to discuss with my men before we are called back into the meeting. This was fun, let's do it again sometime." With that, he turned and walked from the arena.
Once he was gone, Snotlout let out a laugh. "Looks like someone's got a crush on leather buns!"
Astrid turned at him harshly, her face hot with anger and embarrassment. "Say one more thing and I will take your head off with my own hands!"
"Oooo, denial, it must be true!" Added Tuffnut before he was harshly elbowed by his sister. Ruffnut may not have been the brightest bulb, but as a woman, she could see Astrid's conflicted heart.
The blonde was falling for the Outcast leader, and that was not something to joke about.
Before she did something she regretted, Astrid high tailed it out of the arena. Her mind was overwhelmed, her heart slowly tearing apart. As she was a distance away, she stopped and looked out towards the ocean. Images of his concealed face were burned into her retinas. She hated the way her heart sped up when he had revealed his mouth. The way his lips had formed an 'O' when he breathed that fire had made her toes curl. What did he look like under that mask? Was he utterly handsome? Or was he a male version of Darla? Maybe he was scarred and he wore the mask to conceal his hideous flaws. What was under that mask?
Astrid hated falling in love. It was an emotion that she wasn't used to, and it was painful going through it. It had only happened to her once before. When she fell for…
Oh she felt awful. His ring on her finger felt inexplicably heavy as it pulled her to the ground.
"I've betrayed you…" She whispered.
No. She decided. No matter what lied underneath, no charming man, nor troll, she didn't care. That man in the leather armor was a neighboring chief. She was bound to Hiccup, despite what anyone else thought. Despite if he never returned. He was hers, and she was his. Nothing would change that.
"Well, well, what's this?" An all too familiar voice asked. She clenched her fist. "Are you alright? Do you need some help?"
She didn't need his help. She didn't want his sympathy. Like a snake, she uncoiled and lashed out, sending her fist into his face.
Well, if his damn mask hadn't been in the way. Instead, she made him stumble a few steps back as she nursed her throbbing hand.
"That must have hurt."
She just glared at him.
"If you want to punch me, I'd go for the stomach, because it's not lined with metal like the rest of the suit."
She heeded his advice and punched him over and over. Occasionally he would grunt in pain, but she kept going. Again and again her angry fists landed on his stomach, her joints cracking and her knuckles splitting open. She finally stopped when her fingers were covered in blood.
"Better?" He asked as she panted.
"You can't-…" She stopped, biting her lips.
"I can't what, my dear?"
"That! That right there! You can't, no matter how hard you try!"
He genuinely was confused, women had a tendency to do that to him. "You're going to have to be more exact…"
"You can't replace him!"
Hiccup looked downward. Just apologize, and leave her alone. But his feet were carrying him to her side. His lower clip was undone and he leaned in so he could speak right into her ear. His lips almost touched her lobe and his hand rested on her shoulder. He whispered softly, "Don't underestimate me." Then breathed a warm breath on her skin. She shuttered.
Unable to do anything else, she clapped her hands over her face and ran blindly. She was angry, but mostly at herself. She allowed him to have this effect on her, after everything that she went through with Hiccup.
People called to her, telling her to watch out for things, but she miraculously dodged them all. Until, that is, she smacked into a broad chest. Astrid looked up to a kind, dark skinned face.
"Jambo, Astreed!" The general smiled. "Yoor chief es aboot to make an announcement. Weh go, yea?"
"Please, I…I just need some time…" Her voice was too soft and he didn't hear it. Instead, his large hands guided her to the town square where everyone was gathered. Stoick stood up on the steps of the great hall with the other leaders. She saw Wart running to take his place.
She watched with sheer horror as her chief shook hands with the Outcast, sealing their agreement.
"My friends!" Stoick's voice was loud as he clapped a hand on Wart's shoulder. "Today, a difficult decision has been made. One that we have prayed for for many years. Today, the war between the Outcasts and Berk is over!"
A cheer ran up through the crowd.
Then Stoick gestured for the other chief to speak. "My friends, I cannot express how thankful I am for such a smooth agreement. Our tribes have been at war for far too long. To complete this alliance, there is only one condition on your part that I ask.
"You see, the Outcast island had previously banned the presence of women and children. All those at the Atolls are accounted for. I would like to ask you all permission to take my bride from your tribe."
Dread hit Astrid like a hundred bricks. No. No. No. He wouldn't dare!
"I choose Astrid Hofferson to be my bride."
All at once, the eyes of the tribe turned and looked on her.
"Astrid." His voice was piercing, familiar, warm, and yet…cold and harsh, all at the same time. "Do you consent to be my wife?"
"No." She answered quickly. "No, I can't."
She saw the faces of those around her, faces that her telling her to change her decision. It was what was the best for the tribe, wasn't it? But, Hiccup had asked her before, under obligation, and she refused him as well. She broke his heart. She could do it again. "I refuse."
He sauntered down the steps towards her. "Why? Am I revolting? Do you hate me? If I am interpreting things right…the blushes, the embarrassed looks…you like me."
"No, I don't." She closed her eyes. Carefully she twisted the ring on her finger.
"You are in denial."
"No!" Then she bravely met his eyes. "I'm spoken for!"
Hiccup smiled behind his mask. Finally, she was doing what he was hoping for. "By who, pray tell?"
"Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III." She stated proudly.
"Ah." He stepped closer still. "And he proposed to you before he disappeared…funny, I heard he ran away. Why would he run away…if he was engaged? Oh wait, he wasn't engaged…you refused him, too."
The crowd watched Astrid as her jaw quivered, but she glared daggers at him.
"Did you love him? Or do you feel guilt? Do you think it was your fault he ran away?" The second and third questions was what he expected her to answer to.
"Yes." She resolutely answered. "I love him. I've loved him for a very long time, much before he ran away. And yes, I feel like it's my fault he ran away. Are you happy?" Her voice had a bite to it as she raised her head in pride.
He wasn't expecting that answer. Honestly, he couldn't really imagine Astrid loving him back. Especially after all those awful things he had said. Yet, here she was, saying she had waited for him. Even in the face of obligation, peace with the Outcasts, she still proclaimed herself to Hiccup. He was unable to move, to speak, as she glared at him.
He had backed himself into a corner without even realizing it. He wanted this agreement to go through, but what else was there to do? Then he had an awful idea.
He lowered his head. "That is what I was afraid of." He heard the crowd whispering. Wart raised his head and addressed the crowd. "My friends, I haven't been completely honest with you." He stated, waltzing through the throng. "I…have withheld certain information that I should have said when I first arrived, but I was afraid…and it takes a lot for me to be afraid." He held his hands behind his back. "As you may or may not know, before I was chief, I was a slave. It so happens to be…" he gulped. "Nine months ago, I came over a boy that my master had bought. A tiny lad, missing his left leg."
Gasps went over the crowd. Mwaba touched Astrid's shoulder in comfort. He couldn't fathom why Hiccup would be lying about this.
"He worked very hard. He did his best, but always managed to mess up somehow. Mwaba and I, we did our best to help him out, because the world of the thrall is merciless. When I asked him how he ended up in such a place, he said that he ran away. He said that no one wanted him where he was, and he fled because he loved them too much to be a burden."
"Why did you say nothing of this before!?" Shouted Stoick from the steps. "Where is he? Where is my son?!"
Wart lowered his head once again. "I haven't finished."
Stoick held himself at bay.
"A few months in, a pregnant slave went into labor. No one was helping her, because we all knew that children would die in the thrall, and that keeping them until they did just caused heartbreak. But this boy, he didn't know any better, so he helped her, and then cared for the infant in her stead." He wanted to vomit he felt so sick from what he was saying. It hurt so much! "He cared for that baby for three months, sacrificing rations, his blankets, his free time, everything. He suffered so much abuse on his behalf…then his mistress decided she didn't want him anymore. She said that he was a pathetic excuse for a man."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Astrid hug herself.
"He sent the baby away, by training a terror! He trained a dragon to carry off the only ray of light that came for him in that dark world. Then…that small boy, with so much potential was taken out and flogged…" He inhaled sharply through his nose and stood up straight. "Astrid, Hiccup is dead."
All at once, her shoulders slumped heavily and her eyes slid shut, no doubt the image of his feeble form coming to her mind.
"As soon as I saw him train that dragon, I knew who he was. I knew where he was from. I vowed that I would come and deliver the message of his death, so he would not be another nameless loss in this industry...I'm sorry."
She stood frozen in place, her mouth open ever so slightly, but she was completely still.
"No." Stated Stoick, angrily coming towards him. "You're lying! Why would you say such things!" The large man grabbed his shoulders. "Why?!"
"It is never easy to deliver bad news."
The older man started to sorrowfully cry as he shook the chief. "Why now? Why didn't you say something when you came off the boat?!"
Truth be told, this was not the plan. He was not supposed to hide his identity so long, but the longer he waited, the more he feared he would be plagued as a traitor.
"I didn't...I..." He had to think of an excuse. "I didn't want his death to be the reason for you to not accept the treaty. I thought it was best, for both our tribes..." The Outcast tribe was supposed to be a present, an apology for running out on his father and deserting his tribe. Now, everything was backwards. He messed up, again, as usual.
At least somethings hadn't changed.
He heard a hyperventilating breath as Astrid had finally snapped out of her state of shock. "No." She whispered. Hiccup could feel it coming, the explosion of emotion.
"Nnnooooo!" She screamed, "Hiccup! HICCUP!" As if calling for him was going to make him come back.
You killed him. A voice in her head chanted. You're the reason he left!
She covered her blubbering lips with her hands. "I'm sorry, Hiccup. I'm so so sorry!" She squeaked out.
Hiccup had been waiting for an apology. She broke his heart, and when he needed her the most, she wasn't there for him. Now, looking at her like this, he realized that his wants were wrong.
He looked up to Mwaba for direction, but the giant just scowled at him. He had every right to be angry, this was not how it was supposed to go. This was not right.
"As-sst…" He fumbled, then found his voice. "Astrid, I know this is hard for you to hear, but-…"
"SHUT UP!" She screamed back at him. "I don't want to hear your voice! Never! NEVER AGAIN!"
Oh boy, was he in trouble.
He ignored her ravings and grabbed her wrist. Through his mask he met teary eyes. "Come up to the house later, I need to speak to you about this."
"I won't marry you! Not even if you were the last person on earth!"
Ouch. "You don't mean that…"
"Yes! Yes I do! I hate you!" She punched his chest.
The blow wasn't as strong, and he barely swayed. "Okay." He gave in. "But please, come talk to me."
She pulled her arm forcefully away.
"Astrid," Stoick boomed over to her. "Heed to him, it's not his fault." Even though he said it, the chief still held a look of grief. "Everyone, this meeting is adjourned." He stated and then walked back to his home.
As everyone departed in mourning, Hiccup looked to his mentor, Gobber, to see he had resorted to sitting on the steps of the hall, his head in his hands. Everything looked bleak.
Mwaba came and stood at his side. No matter how badly he messed up, he would still have the loyalty of his right hand man. "Wewe kijinga kichoyo mtoto." You stupid, selfish child. He stated.
"You've got that right." Hiccup confessed. Scornfully, he trudged back to his home on the hill, followed by the giant.
As soon as the door shut, Hiccup ripped off his helmet and chucked it all the wall, shouting profanity.
"Wey did yoo do dat!?" Mwaba shouted, equally as angry. "Nilifikiri wewe kupendwa hawa watu!" I thought you loved these people.
"I did! I do! Ugh! I don't know why I said all of that! I'm so mad I could just-…NAH!" He brought his fists down on a nearby table. "I always mess up! Always! I'm sorry Mwaba, I know this wasn't what we talked about…"
"I am not de one yoo need to 'pologeese to." The giant had calmed, just hearing Hiccup's frustration. The man was not prone to anger, and it was spent quickly. "If Astreed kums…"
"I know. And I will. I just…" He collapsed on a bench, his hand caressing his forehead. "She's going to hate me."
There was silence in the room before the older and wiser finally spoke. "I tink…yoo might 'ave doon et, because yoo wanted to pay her back. I tink dat yoo were just filled wid so much bittaness, yoo let it out in front of everyone. She rejected yoo, and dat is not easily forgiven…but yoo will forgive 'er."
"I already have forgiven her. When she came right out and said that she's been in love with me for a long time…and she said she felt guilty because I left…I can't stay mad at her."
"And wid love, she wun't stay mad at yoo."
"Oh, I hope you're right. I'll explain everything to her." He looked over to the mirror hanging over the wash basin. His reflection was always foreign, so changed. Maybe, he had picked up the poison laced within the Outcast tribe. He was there long enough. For him to just devastatingly cut down everyone like he had, it sounded like a true Outcast.
"How did you avoid it?" He asked.
"This, this…evil state of mind that all of the Outcasts take on! You were there longer then I was, but you're a good person…"
"No, Kwikwi, I'm not. Et helped dat I did not speak to fellow men, as dey did not speak to me. I was changed too, for de worse. I hope dat bein' here will heal de wounds."
Hiccup smiled at him in sympathy. The man had gone through Hel in his life, he deserved a place of peace to live out his life.
Hiccup looked desolately to the mask sitting on the floor. He had made it to hide his identity, but hated the personality that shone through it.
"I see conflict in yur eyes. I leave yoo aloon." Mwaba stated before leaving.
A part of the boy didn't want Mwaba to go. He didn't want to be alone with his guilt, with his thoughts. But it was for the best. He had to sort his thoughts and figure out what to say to tell Astrid. He owed her a long explanation.
As he sat alone in his home, there was a scratching sound before Toothless popped in through the sky light. He saw his friend sitting alone and felt the wretched aura coming off of him in waves. Hiccup was surprised when his arms were nudged by a nuzzle.
"Oh bud!" He embraced the dragon, his friend. At least one person wasn't angry with him.