~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 11: The Scotland Question
# # #
Merida came tearing out of the castle. Maudie had told her a dragon had been sighted.
She looked into the sunset. It was Toothless. She ran to wait in the big field as he got closer. Her parents and others came to see. The trees were covered in the bright green of new spring growth now.
She had figured out that Hiccup was trying to get away from her once Astrid had shown up. As her parents had talked to Astrid, Hiccup had cupped her cheek in his hand and looked into her eyes, then he had gathered his things and left without a word. She figured that it was somehow too dangerous for him to say something. It was obvious that Astrid was jealous, and dangerous. But it had left her feeling devastated for him to leave without actually saying good-bye to her and she didn’t know why.
She knew that Astrid was dangerous, but so was she. Hiccup had said Astrid had basically claimed him after he recovered from their adventure with the Red Death. But she wasn’t sure if Hiccup actually cared about Astrid or herself.
Toothless settled down nearby. Hiccup dismounted and turned to see her. He looked more serious, but his smile when he saw her was genuine.
“How are ye?”
“Fine. Nice place you have here.”
“Thanks.” she replied awkwardly.
“I’m...working on that raiding problem.”
“Oh, go and hug him already.” Elinor said giving her a push into his arms.
And they did.
# # #
“So, do you have a solution to the raiding problem?” asked Fergus in the great hall as a feast was being prepared. He was wearing his crown, something Hiccup hadn’t seen before.
“No, not yet. Dad is getting us ready for the Althing in the Summer. The lawspeaker should be able to help us find a solution to the raids.” said Hiccup sitting next to Merida.
“The tribes are not organized but the closest thing we have to a unifying voice is the lawspeaker. He knows the laws and the Althing allows the tribes to sort out their differences without fighting. I know the war between men and dragons was mainly a communications issue. We should be able to resolve this by talking too. I’d much rather have peace then war.”
Fergus looked to Elinor and agreed.
“Peace is hard work too,” commented Merida, and her parents nodded. “The clans still have a certain friction between them, as they compete for my hand.”
Just then servants brought in platters of roasted meats.
# # #
“Good morning.” said Merida brightly, as she came into the stable where Hiccup and Toothless decided to bed down last night. Hiccup didn’t want to be a bother.
“Morning? Already?” groaned Hiccup. The sun was indeed coming up.
“Come on, breakfast is almost ready. I even have something for Toothless.” Merida placed a basket of fish in front of the still sleeping dragon.
“Okay, okay. I’m coming.”
Hiccup followed Merida into the castle and they enter the Great Hall. Fergus and Elinor were there already, as are two others.
“Hiccup, these are my cousins, Moira and her daughter, Enya. They are visiting. They arrived this morning.” Merida made introductions.
Moira was thin woman with long brown hair and gentle eyes, though they hardened as she saw he was a Viking. Little Enya hid behind her mother’s skirts clutching a rag doll that had 4 braids of yellow yarn and a simple brown dress.
“Moira’s here for the summer, her husband is the chief of a coastal town. Several of the coastal towns have sent pregnant and nursing mothers here for safety until we find a solution to the Viking raids.” explained Merida.
“Ah, yeah. I’m trying to do something about that,” said Hiccup.
“Really? Thank you.” Moira rose and curtsied.
Maudie and the boys came down the stairs as servants brought in platters of food.
Merida gestured for Hiccup to sit next to her as Moira settled down across from them next to her Aunt Elinor. The boys sat next to Enya.
Hiccup filled his bowl with some oatmeal, as Fergus piled his plate with meat and sausages. The women were eating quite daintily, though Enya needed her mouth wiped of oatmeal from time to time.
Then one of the boys picked up Enya’s doll. Enya noticed, dropped her spoon and yanked her doll back, but the boy didn’t let go, he smiled at her distress.
“Mine!” Enya cried as she pulled harder.
“Boys, be nice.” said Elinor. Fergus had just taken a big bite and was trying to chew enough to swallow so he intervene, he waved his leg of lamb toward the boy. Maudie was trotting forward to take the doll away.
“Stop it!” Everyone jumped at the shout and the crash of Hiccup’s chair.
“Stop it! Stop it!” Blasted Hiccup as he stormed around to the two children. Everyone was shocked by his shouting.
“Let go!” shouted Hiccup as he got closer. The boy let go and ran to Elinor. The girl dropped the doll and clambered into her mommy’s lap.
Hiccup scooped up the doll and held it close for a moment, then checked to make sure it was okay and then turned to the scared little girl and said very gently, “Take good care of her.”
Then he ran from the room, his metal leg squeaking; leaving everyone looking at each other.
# # #
“Please, sit,” asked Queen Elinor, gesturing to the brown padded chair in front of a small desk.
Hiccup sat down on the chair and glanced around the room. He winced as she locked the door. There was a large tapestry showing Merida dancing with a bear. A wide fireplace, some musical instruments and a desk that Elinor was walking around to sit behind.
He noticed Elinor was in a glittery green dress and crown, she looked very regal and on the whole, the situation was quite intimidating.
He knew he should not have shouted at the children.
The Queen had invited him to her office to talk. She was the strangest person he had ever met. She was a terrifyingly fierce warrior with her bow, especially with her daughter. He had seen a number of his fellow Vikings go berserk; becoming rage monsters while fighting dragons, but what the Queen and Princess became, was a place far beyond berserk. She was a sweet and gentle mother teaching Merida and the boys and the other children, which made everything even freakier.
Then she was also a queen and she was majestic like no one he had ever met before, but he could see some of that in Merida too. A friendly brawl had broken out one night after too much ale had flowed, back at the MacGuffin’s and she stopped it cold just by standing up and clearing her throat. Somehow that scared him more then her bow.
Elinor gazed at Hiccup for a while.
“So what was that all about?” asked Queen Elinor.
"I'm sorry. It won't happen again." said Hiccup.
“Good. You have to understand, the boys are very special to us. It was a hard pregnancy. We almost all died. I’m not a good mother to them, I spoil them something rotten.” The look on Elinor’s face was a little wicked.
“It’s okay. I understand. We’ve had a large number of babies die in the last few years. Our tribe is not large and all deaths are a big deal. There is a bit of a gap between us teens and the adults and the children behind us.”
Elinor gave him a worried look and nodded. “Did dragons kill them?”
“Not really, just a couple, mostly they just got sick and died.”
“Oh.” said the Queen sadly. Then she settled herself in a manner that changed the subject. "Well, it isn't like the boys don't deserve a good yelling at from time to time, but your outburst had nothing to do with them. There is something else going on, isn't there?"
Hiccup didn't know how to handle that question, but a part of him wanted to scrabble away as fast as he could. The look she was given him was very intense.
“You are quite the young man. Son of a Viking chief, accomplished blacksmith, dragon slayer, dragon rider, and a brave warrior.” The Queen was listing his accomplishments like he was a fine boat or something.
“Ah, I’m nothing special.” Hiccup looked away feeling embarrassed, though the words were true enough.
He looked up as he heard something set on the table. The queen had put her crown down and the look on her face was warm and loving as she came around the table to sit next to him. It was a look that tugged at his heart.
Elinor got up and sat next to Hiccup, who found that a little uncomfortable. “Hiccup, I am worried about you. So often when I look into your eyes I see walls. The same walls I put up when I had to become queen and which almost destroyed my kingdom, my family, and myself. In your eyes I see myself. You are protecting yourself from hurts that haven’t happened yet. I fear that things will begin hurting you from the inside and those can destroy you more thoroughly then a dragon.”
Hiccup shivered, could everyone here read him so clearly? “I saw a scared kid in Toothless’ eyes. You are a queen, and the most powerful person I have ever met. How can you see yourself in me?”
“Because I wasn’t always like this. I was hiding myself from everyone, hiding behind a queen so I didn’t have to be myself. It took my own daughter turning me into a bear to realize that what I was doing was hurting everyone around me, especially my daughter and myself. The worst part though, was as I was a bear, there were times I...stopped being myself completely. I would just be a bear. But I would come back and I would remember who I was and that I had lost it. I don’t know if you will lose yourself like I did but I would rather you not find out.”
She took his hand, “You are something special. Really you are, but I am worried about you. I look in your eyes and see the same walls Merida had and the ones that I placed around my own heart. I understand that you had to do that to protect yourself. I did it for the same reason so I could run the kingdom effectively. I had to make hard decisions that hurt others and myself. But what Merida and I went through taught me that closing off your heart changes you and not in good ways. I was trying to be a good queen, but I had walled off my heart to do that and I cut off my daughter and my family. I didn’t see it myself. I was driving my daughter insane. She would risk herself in maddening ways because she couldn’t find a way out. She turned me into a bear and only then could I see how much we were hurting. How much pain I was in, how much pain she was in, how much I was hurting everyone around me. I held up those walls for a long, long time but I was hurting myself keeping them up so much. I know you are a great pain. A pain so great you hide it even from yourself. Please, I would heal you of that pain. I’ve heard you tell us about you father and the others in your tribe.”
Hiccup was amazed by what she was telling him.
Elinor pulled her chair a little closer. Their knees were almost touching. “May I ask you something?”
Hiccup wanted to push the chair away, she was so close. It was so intimate between the two of them, it wasn’t something he was used to but it felt familiar, so he nodded.
“You’ve talked about your father, your friends and tribe, do you have any other family?”
“Well, there’s Snotlout and his family, we’re cousins.” Hiccup shrugged.
Elinor looked at him for a long moment, sifting through what was said and unsaid. “It’s safe here. I won’t judge you for anything that happens here.” she asked very gently, putting a hand on his knee. “What’s your mother’s name?”
“Valhallarama.” Hiccup whispered.
“How did your mother die?”
Hiccup retreated inside himself, behind the huge stone walls that protected his heart. He had never told anyone about that. He knew he could lie, say that he didn’t remember, but it wasn’t the truth.
These people were so kind and good. They had toasted him in the Great Hall for his part in the battle. They had hugged him. They had berated him for endangering himself. They cared about him as a person and not just someone with the answers to their dragon questions or hoping that maybe this time he’d be killed and no longer be in their hair.
He lowered his eyes because it took effort to lower his walls, he had kept them up a very long time. He bit his lip for a moment. “I was a kid, there was another dragon raid. Mom was with me at home. There was a Hideous Zippleback and it was filling our home with gas. I was scared of the gas, I knew it was a bad thing. Mommy told me not to cry, she would take care of me. She grabbed me and we dove out of the back door just as our home exploded. We went flying, I was crying. Mom picked me up again and scrambled for cover. We ended up behind some houses and hid between some cabbage crates. I was scared and crying, but Mom told me not to cry.
“Then a Gronkle came down behind her. She stuffed me in a cabbage crate and bopped the dragon with her ladle, making it go away. I tried to stop crying, she ran her hand over my head. Then there was a Nadder and she whacked him with an oar. Then there were more Nadders and she fell down and, and, they bit her. They fought over her like a rag doll.”
Elinor gasped and gathered Hiccup into her bosom.
Hiccup kept talking. “She was screaming. Dad and others came and fought off the dragons, but Mommy was...dead. Daddy was sad, but he didn’t cry. I didn’t cry. We had a funeral boat just for her. I snuck my Thor action figure on board so she would remember me.”
“You are a good boy.”
Hiccup shook his head. “It was my fault.”
“No, no. It wasn’t. It’s okay. You are allowed to be afraid.”
“I’m afraid all the time.”
“I know, so am I.”
“Does it get any easier?”
“Just keep doing the right things.”
“But I fail so often.”
“We all do.”
“Will I ever know happiness?”
“Yes. You will.”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, okay. Elinor, your husband is as as big and strong as my father, I’ve fought dragons, but why are you the most fearsome warrior I have ever met?”
“I’m a mother and mothers protect their own. I would protect you too.”
Hiccup licked his lip, “Yeah. Thanks.”
And so they held each other for a while, taking comfort in love.
# # #
Hiccup and Fergus were talking as they wandered around near the gates of Castle DunBroch when they heard an angry shout, “Viking! Viking!”
They turned and Fergus saw an enraged Struan running through the gate toward them.
“Where is my sister? You Viking scum!” Fergus caught the angrily flailing young man.
“Struan! Struan, stop it! He’s trying to help!” Fergus yelled at the distraught boy.
“But my sister and Aibhlinn. My village!” Struan shouted, trying to push his way around the king.
“Yes, I know, they and so many others were taken. Hiccup is trying to help us find a way to find out what happened.”
“A Viking?” Straun asked incredulously.
“Do you really think we can find out where the Vikings took them without talking to a Viking?”
“I-I guess not,” said Straun, a little confused but more calmly.
“Come, let’s go inside. Hiccup needs to hear your story.”
# # #
“After the fog lifted and the Vikings were gone we buried our dead and gathered up the dresses of the taken women. After the others mourned them, I came here to try to get help getting them back.” finished Struan.
“You said the others mourned them. Do you mean you didn’t?” asked Hiccup.
“I mourned the dead, especially Aibhlinn’s parents. She was their only child, they had tried for so long, but I won’t mourn the living. I will get them back.” Hiccup could see that anger and passion in the teens eyes, but then Struan deflated. “But I have no idea how to even start, except to come here and remind the king of his duty.”
“I cannot forget. We keep Aibhlinn’s clothes in our chambers as a constant reminder.” Hiccup saw Fergus put a hand on the teen’s shoulder. Hiccup could feel their anger, frustration and helplessness. How often had he felt that way growing up on Berk? How it would feel to him if raiders came and took Astrid and Ruffnut? It would feel exactly the same.
“Struan. I am not sure how to help. I am not exactly influential in my tribe and my tribe is just a minor little tribe. But I’ll do what I can to stop these raids and get your sisters back.” said Hiccup sincerely.
Struan looked at Hiccup, then nodded, “Thank you.”
# # #
“My life doesn’t make any sense anymore!” Hiccup said loudly.
“Please, Hiccup. I want to understand but you need to explain what happened” Said Merida.
This morning she had noticed that Hiccup was antsy, finally she had suggested that she show them around the DunBrock lands. He had leapt on that idea like a starving dog. In minutes they had mounted Toothless and were flying over the loch. Now they had come down on the high ridge where she loved to come with Angus to overlook the highland valleys. Far below were sheep in a summer pasture.
“The VWL is pressuring my dad to go on a raid to get more women. We have even more dragons now that Gobber trained the Boneknapper, people are listening to what I say, and some of the women are eyeing me for marriage!” said Hiccup pacing back in forth like a caged animal.
“Hic, please. I couldn’t understand any of what you just said, none of it made any sense.”
“That’s the whole problem. Nothing makes sense anymore. Even this very moment makes no sense. Here I am talking to a Scottish Princess on top of a mountain because we flew here on a dragon!” Hiccup gestured dramatically to everything.
“Yes, you did, because you have done some of the most brave and selfless things I have ever heard. You have done astounding things and probably will your whole life. But you said something about raids for women. Does that mean they are coming here?” Merida was scared of more raids, they had to do something, but nothing had worked so far. The thought of being taken, her clothes cut off and enslaved to be a wife to someone she had never met and could never love terrified her. She knew down in the depths of her heart she might have married even Mor’du if given the chance to live or fought hard enough for him to kill her.
“No, not here specifically, but Scotland in general, or England or anywhere they can reach.”
“And someone is pressuring your dad into doing it?” Merida thought that had some possibilities if Stoic didn’t want to, then maybe he could be persuaded not to.
“Yeah, the VWL.” Hiccup said as he stumped past her again.
“Oh, ah, the Viking Widows League.”
“Widows? You mean to tell me women are asking your father to kidnap other women as wives!?” Merida was stunned, how could anyone, much less another women condone, much less advocate for something like this?
“Yes. They are worried that we can’t make enough babies to replace all the people we lost to the Red Death, some of the women are too old to make babies. Another problem is that our babies are getting weaker and we need some fresh blood to become strong again.”
“Yeah, I’m more of a talking fishbone then a properly sized Viking, and that is a problem. The twins, and Astrid are only slightly bigger then me, Snotlout is somewhat bigger but only Fishlegs is even close to Viking sized but he’s only as big as a woman.”
“Indeed. Astrid and Ruffnut are the only ones coming up on child bearing age, there are some toddlers and young children but again, not enough and not soon enough.
“Yeah, Berk needs women, but it seems like we have no idea how to get more other then raids.”
“You could ask.”
“Ask!? Are you kidding? This is Berk we’re talking about, not Scotland. Until very recently everything on or near that island would try to kill you. We still have to deal with the weather, it snows nine months of the year and hails the other three. Who would want to live there?”
“You do.” Merida was wondering if she wanted to.
That stopped Hiccup. “Well, yeah. I’m a Viking, we have stubbornness issues.” He shrugged then sat next to Merida on the rock warmed by the golden sunlight.
Merida waited but finally she asked. “More dragons?”
“Yeah. Gobber’s home almost burned down and he thought it was his nemesis, the Boneknapper dragon.”
“Boneknapper?” Merida asked, that sounded really ominous.
“Yeah, it’s a dragon that doesn’t have scales so it builds a suit of armor out of bones from other dragons.”
“That sounds macabre. Also rather intelligent. Really scary, too.”
“It’s okay, they are bleached out bones it finds. Everyone was saying that the Boneknapper was a myth because except for one entry in the Dragon Manual there was no other evidence of it anywhere. But Gobber said it did and was going to go after it himself. I couldn’t let him do that, he’s been like a second father to me. So I asked the team to come along and aside from some grumbles from Snotlout, we went and found the Boneknapper and his harem.”
“Harem?” Merida said, curious about the implications of that word.
“We didn’t just bring back a Boneknapper but also four females. We took a boat and went searching. We got so caught up in Gobber’s stories that we got ourselves shipwrecked. Gobber set up a trap with Fishlegs and it sorta worked.” Hiccup shook his head.
Hiccup let out a snort. “We ended up in the trap, with the Boneknapper trying to get to Gobber. I figured out that the bone Gobber used to keep his pants up was the bone the Boneknapper needed to make a perfect coat of armor. We shouted at Gobber to give it back. Then I shouted alone and Gobber did it. The Boneknapper was finally able to roar, the missing bone had disabled his roar. Gobber made friends with it and so the island now has 5 mythical Boneknappers living on it.”
“Okay, and what about people listening to you.”
Hiccup rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah, that. That’s freaking me out. People mostly treat me as ordinary now, which is a lot better then before but, I’ve started noticing something recently. Particularly after the Boneknapper adventure.”
“People are asking my opinion about things and if I make a suggestion, they go and do it.”
“Heh, I keep forgetting you don’t know what it was like before. Before, I was functionally invisible. People outright ignored me. I was like a piece of furniture or a ghost. Unless, of course, I was, you know, actually doing something and then they were worried I’d destroy the village.”
“Did you ever destroy the village?”
“Ha, never even got close.”
“But you could, if you wanted too?” Asked Merida, her eyes narrowing.
Hiccup thought for a minute, “Well, most of it. The Great Hall is pretty secure, it’s carved into the mountain.”
Merida just looked at him for a moment, “You really did just think of a way to destroy almost your whole village just now, didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah, you just asked me about it.”
“And it would work too.” It was a statement not a question.
“Of course. Well, probably. The stupidest things can mess up a perfectly good plan.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
“It would be annoying to rebuild the village again, but dragons burned down a house or three every raid so it’s no big deal.”
“Yeah. And you said something about women...” Merida left it hanging. The nonchalance of the destruction of his village was disconcerting but not a surprise from the way he’s acted before.
Hiccup rocked back, running his hand through his hair. “Oh man. The women. It used to be that widows would come by bringing cakes and cookies and even whole meals over for dad. That was no big deal. Dad would be nice to them but wouldn’t let things go anywhere, so they would marry someone else. Dad still loves Mom and won’t let anyone take her place. But the VWL is asking him to get married again too. They think the tribe could use a few more like me.” Hiccup finished in a whisper.
“Would that be so bad?”
“Nobody should go through what I did.” Hiccup said quietly.
“With you as their big brother, I know they wouldn’t.” Merida put her hand on his shoulder.
Hiccup gave her a grateful look.
Then he sobered. “But now women are bringing me food. They want to marry me.”
“Well, why not? You are the chief’s son and slayer of the biggest dragon ever, twice.”
“I haven’t told them about the second one. Astrid and my Dad know but I asked them not to say anything until I did. I don’t feel ready to get married. To have children, to be a father. I barely know how to feel human, much less grownup.”
“I know how you feel.” Merida said ruefully. “I come here to get away from it all. To have some quiet and think.”
“I know you do, that’s why I came. You are the only one I’ve ever met who can understand what I’m going through.” Hiccup put his hand out and Merida took it in hers. “Have you found a solution yet?” Hiccup asked.
Merida sighed, “Not really. If it was as simple as choosing who I think I could come to love someday it would be pretty easy, but it’s not. I want to like Wee Dingwall, he did shoot the lucky arrow, but I can’t stand him. He really is a lovable guy, he’s like a puppy but I don’t think he can ever grow up. He would make a terrible king, but his father is powerful and very proud. It is possible if I do not choose Wee there could be a war.”
“MacIntosh might have made a good enough king, but he’s too interested in satisfying himself rather then putting the kingdom first. His father also tends to deflect responsibility, take credit for things he hasn’t done and those are not good qualities in a king.”
“No, it’s not. Actually, I think my dad takes on too much, it would have been nice to see him a bit more.”
“Well, he out of the running now anyway. He was here a couple of weeks ago, he showered me with gifts, and smooth words, but then he put his hand up my skirt.”
Merida was gratified by Hiccup’s reaction. “I threw him out of my room, actually he was rather lucky the door was open, he ended up in the hallway. I was angry and he scampered as I went for my bow. I was screaming at him. Mum and Da came running, they couldn’t understand my screeching, by the time I got the point of what happened across, he was out of catapult range. Da was really angry and wanted to avenge the insult, but Mum talked us out of that. She sent a letter to Lord MacIntosh telling him that his son was officially out of the running.”
“That’s all? That would have sparked a blood feud back home.”
“The Queen is trying to prevent that. She has called Lord MacIntosh to come in person to apologize and to punish his son in front of me, to make restitution.”
“Well, okay then. Actually, that sounds a little like how the Althing works.”
Merida squeezed his hand. “Yeah. You remember Kevin?” she continued at his nod. “He would be a good choice. I think I like him. He’s gained a lot of confidence since battling the dragons.”
“Nothing like slaying a dragon to boast one’s status.”
Merida smiled, “Indeed. He would be a good king.”
“So what’s the problem. Good king, you like him, then marry him.”
“There is someone else in the mix now,” said Merida tentatively.
“Oh, who? Do I know him?” Hiccup asked.
Merida just looked at him for a moment, then rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you know him. He’s you.”
“Yes, Hiccup, you. You saved my people from the Green Death. You are smart. You are selfless. You have the qualities a good king should have, and-and I like you.” Merida finished shyly.
“Oh man. I came here to make things simpler.” Hiccup ran a hand through his hair.
“I know. I’m sorry, but I need to be honest about all this.”
“You just gestured to all of me.”
“I know.” She looked out over the Highlands.
“Oh look, it’s almost time, come on!” Merida said jumping up and running over to Toothless.
“Come where?” asked Hiccup, standing carefully on his metal leg.
“I’ll show you. It’s that way.” Merida pointed.
Soon they were airborne and they were coming up on a waterfall. “See that tall outcropping of rock? That’s the Crone’s Tooth. Only the great kings of old were brave enough to climb it and drink from the Firefalls. I did it in a dress.” Merida proclaimed proudly.
“Really?” Said Hiccup as he directed Toothless toward the top of it.
“Hey, we’re supposed to climb it to show our bravery.”
“We’re riding a fire breathing dragon.” Hiccup pointed out.
Merida struggled with that. “Well, okay, just this once.”
There wasn’t much room at the top so Toothless ended up hanging on the side of the spire as the two teens clambered off.
“So Firefalls? Looks like water to me.” Said Hiccup looking up at the tall falls, feeling the spray of the falls on his face.
“Wait for it.” Said Merida slowly, looking at the sun which was hiding behind a cloud just then.
“For what?” Asked Hiccup, looking around and back up the falls, as the sun cleared the cloud.
“This!” Announced Merida, as the falls blazed red with the evening sun’s light.
“Whoa,” whispered Hiccup, looking up at the transformed falls.
Merida went over to the falls and held out her hands and brought the water back to Hiccup. She was looking at her cupped hands and then she looked up through her lashes as she held out her hands. Merida was biting her lip. Hiccup lowered himself to her hands and drank. He could smell apples from her skin and feel her warmth as his lips brushed her palms.
As he straightened, he could see the blush on her cheeks and her quickened breath. His heart was pounding as he caught some water in his own hands and offered to Merida, who drank deeply from his hands, her lips burned hotly on his palms. He blushed as his thumb brushed her cheek as her hair tickled his arms.
She looked up, her red lips parted after she swallowed. They were looking into each others eyes. He was panting, and they moved closer together.
Toothless was quietly crooning.
Getting closer. Her eyes closed and head tilted.
A cloud covered the sun again and the teens shivered in the sudden, sodden cold.
“Ah, so how do we get back on Toothless?” asked Merida, as the moment shattered into a thousand fragments of broken futures.
Hiccup looked over the side of the spire. “Hey buddy, up for a dynamic mount?”
Toothless gave an excited bark and wiggle.
“What’s a dynamic mount?” asked Merida.
“We jump!” said Hiccup grabbing her hand, with a big smile.
Merida saw Toothless gather himself. They took two big steps and leapt into the air.
They were falling and Merida was screaming. Then Toothless was between their legs and she held on as Toothless pulled out of the dive inches above the ground. Toothless flew low and straight as Hiccup hooked them in, then rose up into the sky for the flight home.
# # #
Author’s Note: Hiccup lost a couple of hours by flying so far East, he has jetlag, but doesn’t have a word for it yet.