~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 12: Joinings
“Her hair is like a fully enflamed Monstrous Nightmare. Her eyes are blue like the clear sky after a blizzard. Her hands are strong and callused but her touch is gentle like pussywillows. She smelled of apple. Her skin is like warm cream. Her face is round like a bowl you cup in your hands before drinking in her wonderful goodness.” Hiccup had his hands cupped before him.
“And her lips.” Ruffnut cooed.
“H-her lips....” Hiccup licked his own.
“sNerk.” A slightly muffled laugh came from Tuffnut.
Hiccup snapped out his revere. He looked around at the other teens and dashed away into the darkness beyond the bonfire on the observation deck, blushing bright red.
“Aw, you had to ruin it, didn’t you.” Ruffnut complained hitting her brother.
“Stop it! Won’t you ever stop it?” shouted Astrid, rising and spinning her ax in her hand.
Everyone stared at her.
“Can’t we be nice to him for once? Can’t we stop hurting him?” Astrid asked.
“Hey, we’re being nice to him. He’s part of the gang. We’re only giving him a hard time.” said Snotlout.
“Oh, come on. He doesn’t see it that way. He’s always been make fun of and harassed. Does it feel any different to him? I don’t think so.” Astrid just watched Hiccup run off into the darkness and then she sighed.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tuffnut asked.
“I’m just not good enough.” Astrid said.
“What do you mean? You’re a great Viking.” Tuffnut said.
“I am a great Viking, but Hiccup is a great person. I should have stopped you before he ran off.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Hiccup cares about more then just the tribe. He stopped the war with the dragons because he cared about Toothless and the other dragons.” Astrid gave Stormfly a scratch on the nose. “You...we tormented him for being different. I stood by and let you. I never once defended him. If he wants to give his heart to Merida, I can’t blame him. I don’t deserve it.”
“Come on, you’ve already claimed him. Everyone saw how you kissed him when he came back around.”
“I may have claimed him, but that doesn’t mean anything to him. He used to crush on me, hard, but not anymore. He’s growing into a real man and I can’t compete with him.”
“Sure, you can. You could whip his butt if you wanted.” Ruffnut stated.
Astrid shook her head and laughed a quiet laugh. “Remember when all we ever wanted was to kill a dragon.” They nod. “We knew exactly how much status killing each kind of dragon was worth. We knew how many dragons Stoic and the others fought and how much status they have. Fishlegs, break it down for them.”
“Ah, you see, it was, and there’s the whole...” Fishlegs stuttered as he fiddled with the tavern puzzle in his hands.
Astrid picked up her ax and Fishlegs sighed.
“Okay. I’ll start with us. We came in riding dragons to fight the third biggest dragon we’ve ever heard of, which was wiping out our families.” Fishlegs said.
“What do you mean third biggest? That thing was huge. The Death wasn’t even mentioned in the Dragon Manual. What dragons are bigger then a Death?” Astrid asked.
“Jörmungandr. Nidhug” Fishlegs prompted.
Everyone just looked at each other. The world dragon, said to wrap completely around the world under the sea grasping its own tail. Foretold to die in battle at the hands of Thor at Ragnarök and Thor to die of his poison as the world broke. Nidhug was chewing at the roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, when finished, it would begin Ragnarök.
“We came in riding dragons, in front of the whole tribe, on it’s home turf. Snotlout was on it and made a joke as he was hitting it in the eye. The twins are next because of the insults and saving Snotlout. Astrid, you assisted so much, keeping us in the fight a lot longer then we deserved, getting Hiccup into the fight, and almost sacrificing yourself so the twins could get Snotlout out.”
“And you? You came up with the battle plan on the fly.” Astrid asked pointedly.
“Yeah, and figured out the noise thing, and tossed my hammer to Snotlout,” finished Fishlegs.
“So where does all that put us?” asked Astrid.
“We are up there with Spitelout and Stoic. Something that took their whole lives to do, we did in a single battle.” Said Fishlegs,
“And Hiccup?” asked Astrid.
Fishlegs looked uncomfortable. He was glad people were treating Hiccup like a regular person now, but he deserved so much more. Hiccup hadn’t made an issue of it, so he hadn’t either. Now it was going to come out. It had to.
“Come on Fishlegs. We already know he has a lot of status. Even if we don’t admit it out loud.” Astrid shot a look at Snotlout. “He asked us to go hunting the Boneknapper for Gobber and we went. Nobody wanted to, but we did anyway. Just because it was him asking.”
“If we start when we got involved. He tamed the training dragons, and flew us to the dragon’s nest. There he organized us to fight the Death while he rescued Toothless, which Stoic assisted on. Saved his girl.” Fishlegs glanced at Astrid, she looked away but didn’t deny it.
“He then fought the Death riding the most feared dragon we knew about. He defeated the Death on it’s home turf, in front of the whole village and lost his leg in the process.”
Tuffnut whistled as he understood how that added up, that was way more status then anyone ever had all in a single battle which just upped it even more.
“There’s one more thing.” Fishlegs began quietly, “Please, don’t tell Hiccup or anyone that we know this, but it is important. This happened before we got involved. My mum was in the kitchen of the Great Hall, she was minding the feast for after finals. She heard something that happened between Stoic and Hiccup.”
“What?” asked Ruffnut.
“Stoic disowned Hiccup as a Viking and a son before they left for the nest. He was Nithing.” Fishlegs whispered.
“What!? No!” Astrid jumped up.
Fishlegs nodded. “He did all that as a total outcast. He wasn’t even an outlaw. He didn’t have to do any of that. He could have, he should have, let everyone be wiped out by the Death, but he did it anyway.”
The twins just sat quietly as close together as they could be. Snotlout had his hands on his eyes. Astrid had tears running down her face as she turned to look into the darkness where Hiccup had disappeared. Finally she turned, staring into the fire. “Great Odin’s Ghost. I knew he had status, from Dragon training. He was doing so well, after all the blunders he made. I tried to save him from Toothless when I found them in the forest, but he saved me instead. I had just whacked him with my ax, to punish him for being so good at dragon training. For upstaging me, I was jealous of him. He could have done nothing and Toothless would have killed me. He’s not like any other Viking I’ve heard of. I can’t compete with that. After he woke up, I wanted him. I knew in my gut that he had massive status and I wanted that. All of us do. Like Gobber’s Boneknapper and his harem.”
Astrid looked at Ruffnut and she nodded. There was a tension among the women of the tribe. Everyone was being nice to Hiccup but there was a subtle competition for his favor. There was a certain respect for the existing relationship Astrid had established but she knew everyone wanted his babies. He was the most powerful Viking ever, the women knew it and wanted that strength to spread throughout the tribe via his babies.
“There is another thing,” began Astrid. “When we found Hiccup in the Highlands we followed a great pillar of smoke and found the castle he was staying at. I keep expecting him to say something about it but he hasn’t. Stoic hasn’t either and I don’t know why.”
“Say what about what?” asked Fishlegs.
Astrid sat down and wrapped her arms around her abdomen and began rocking back and forth. “That column of smoke was coming from the carcass of another Death.”
Ruffnut moaned and clutched herself.
Fishlegs lost his balance and fell over.
Snotlout’s jaw hit the floor and stayed there.
Tuffnut looked like he was hit by whale.
“He killed another Death?” Fishlegs whispered as he sat up.
Astrid nodded, “And he didn’t get hurt this time. He’s told us about that scratch on his arm when they shot him down. I know Hiccup well enough that if someone else did it or helped him he would tell us all about what they did.”
The circle of friends nodded at that. They heard their own stories when Hiccup was asked to tell about his story.
“He did it all alone. I know it.”
Astrid stood and turned to look over the dark ocean.
“Even if I won him as my husband against all the other women of the tribe. Even if he chained me as his slave bride. I know I wouldn’t be worthy to be his pet and he would care for me anyway. He deserves and needs someone better then all of us. He needs someone who knows how to love deeper then any of us.” Astrid turned away and strode into the night, as Stormfly flew to her favorite perch.
Everyone looked to Ruffnut, she just sighed and nodded.
“What is she talking about?” Asked Tuffnut.
“You idiot, even you must see it. Every time Hiccup walks through the village or sits in the Great Hall all the women show up in their best clothes or with plates of food or both. We are all subtly throwing ourselves at him, but he doesn’t even notice. Astrid and I keep some of them back by sitting next to him in the Great Hall.”
“You call what you do on the arm of his chair sitting!?” spouted Snotlout more then a little jealous of his little cousin. His face was getting hot just remembering some of what the girls did. He converted the shame he was feeling into aggression at the most convenient target.
Ruffnut stood and towered over the sitting Snotlout. “Yes, I do. I want his babies so bad it is all I can do to keep myself from ripping our clothes off in front of everyone and going for it.”
She rounded on her twin. “You think I go swimming every night for a bath? Half the women of the tribe are in there with me. The other half are banging their husbands half the night for the same reason. Desperately trying to cool off enough so we can sleep. A few nights ago a bunch of us were walking back and Hiccup walked by and said ‘Hi’, we turned around and walked back down to the harbor and jumped back in.”
“Even Gothi?” snarked Tuffnut.
“She beats me to the ocean every time. Now, if you’d excuse me, my ovaries just went off like a volcano from what we just learned. I need to cool off.” said Ruffnut as she turned and ran off unlacing her shirt.
Tuffnut looked at the others, Snotlout looked like a codfish, and Fishlegs was completely failing at looking inconspicuous, wanting to be anywhere but where he was.
“Girls are crazy.” There were nods all around.
# # #
Ruffnut sat on the dock at the harbor. Putting her double horned helmet down next to her.
“Hey, Ruffnut. You’re late. Had a hard time pealing yourself off Hiccup’s chair?” called Ingrid the Midwife from the water, next to Gothi. The others laughed.
“Ha. Ha.” replied Ruffnut, pulling off her boots. “I’m just trying to keep him safe from you barracudas.”
“We’re not barracudas, we’re mermaids.” Helga the Weaver called back, flipping and splashing Ruffnut.
“Thanks a lot.” Ruffnut spat back. Wiping water off herself.
“Sorry.” Helga said contritely. “It’s a warm night so it should dry quickly.”
“Not like they weren’t wet already.” grumbled Ruffnut as she stripped off her pants.
The two dozen women chuckled wickedly. They were all without husbands. All were widows who had lost their husbands to the sea or a dragon. They called themselves the Viking Widows League. With all the casualties the tribe had suffered it was more of a safe place as they mourned their husbands. And they also matched each other up with widowers.
“Where’s Astrid?” Ingrid asked looking around. Ruffnut and Astrid often came to be with the VWL, they acted like extra mothers to the girls, replacement mothers in Ruffnut’s case.
“You know. She went into the forest with her ax.”
“She didn’t need to go to the forest to polish her ax.” Helga smirked and the others giggled.
Ruffnut frowned, dropped her shirt and cannonballed into the water, splashing everyone. The cold water enveloped her hot body, she came up gasping.
“You know she’s not like that,” said Ruffnut pointedly.
Helga sighed, “No, she really does chop up those trees, even at night. It’s her way of burning the energy off.”
Ingrid swam over and began undoing Ruffnuts braids.
“Thanks.” Ruffnut said. She had to tread water to keep her head above water. She could eat like a dragon but it just didn’t add anything to her bones, she couldn’t float like the others. They were all full grown and fully figured. She was a toothpick with braids, which was the only way to tell her apart from her brother. She kept praying to Freya to have puberty show up. Ruffnut envied them rather a lot of their beauty, though right now the ability to float would be nice.
“So how did Hiccup’s diplomatic mission go?” Ingrid asked extra casually.
“Pretty bad. He was talking about the princess and he started waxing poetic.”
There were many small cries of despair from the women as they crowded around her.
“Ladies, ladies! Don’t panic! He hasn’t made any decision yet and there is still time for him and us.” called Ingrid pulling on the braid she was combing out for Ruffnut.
“Hey, easy on the hair. That’s true. He may still go with Astrid or one of you, if you catch his eye.” said Ruffnut.
“He could still choose you, too.” said Ingrid pointedly.
The ladies laughed as Ruffnut blushed, though the cold water made it fade quickly.
Ruffnut clung to a pylon of the dock as Ingrid washed her hair for her.
“So what is it with all of you? None of you used to care about Hiccup but now all of you want to marry him. Astrid’s claimed him.”
“Well, yeah. He’s got the most status out of everyone, by a whole lot. He is the most desirable Viking ever, way more then his father. He deserves the best wife we can get for him.” said Helga.
Gothi wrote a word with a wet finger on the pylon.
“Yeah, we didn’t respect him for a long time. We’re making up for that now. We treat him as just one of the gang.” said Ruffnut.
Ingrid cut in, “I’m sure he appreciates that but that isn’t all he deserves, but you and Astrid weren’t showing him proper respect, even with all you do in the Great Hall. He will be the next chief and deserves that respect and more, even now. The men defer to him already.”
“We do too. We went on that cockamamy search for the Boneknapper on his word,” said Ruffnut quietly. “The stupid thing is he doesn’t get it. He just wants to be ordinary. He flies off with Toothless so he can get some time alone. He’s hiding from the tribe, because we are giving him too much attention.”
The women all looked at each other, a few had their hands to their mouths.
“But we just want to show him we love him.” Helga said.
“I know, but he’s not like your typical Viking. I’ve seen him try with all his might to be a normal Viking but that isn’t him and we shouldn’t ask him to be anything other then himself.”
Gothi, Ingrid and Helga looked at each other. Gothi made a sign.
Ingrid said, “No, we shouldn’t. He is most powerful when he is himself. We all are.”
The women bobbed quietly in the water as gentle waves lapped at the shore.
Ruffnut spoke quietly to Helga, “Astrid is worried about that Scottish princess. She isn’t sure anymore if she is good enough for Hiccup.”
The women looked worriedly at each other. Astrid was one of the great Viking women, and she wasn’t even fully grown yet.
“She shouldn’t worry so much. She and Hiccup did some special things together. For all we try to entice Hiccup, she has a long head start on us.” said Helga.
“Still, it might be a good idea for him to married that princess and bring her here to live, we need her.” said Ingrid.
“What!?” asked Ruffnut, confused.
“Ruffnut, I know you are bad at math but even you must have noticed there are more boys your age then girls.”
“Well, yeah, so?”
“Here, let’s get out of the water, we’ve cooled down enough and you lips are turning blue.” said Ingrid.
The VWL and Ruffnut climbed out of the harbor, rinsed themselves at the cistern and started dressing.
“Our time of mourning is coming to a close,” Ingrid sighed. That was true, it was only a few weeks until the anniversary of the defeat of the Death and the end of the dragon war. So many of the tribe had died that day, the Death had stepped on an entire squad of women. “We need to choose husbands and get back to making babies, but there are more of them then there are of us. Berk needs women, Ruffnut, so we can have enough babies. Some fresh blood would be good too. It’s been a long time since we had someone from outside Berk marry into the tribe. Too many of our babes are weak because we don’t get outsiders here enough.” Ingrid said, and she should know, since she was one of the midwives. They started the march back up to the village. The women all combing out their hair as they walked to allow it to dry, they would braid it as they went to bed.
“Do you know why?”
“No. All we know for sure is that every few generations we need to bring in fresh women to stay strong. The last time was your grandparents generation, Stoic and Gobber’s mothers were slave brides from the Highlands. We may need to do that again, though the last time they were bought from slavers.”
Ruffnut tried thinking about that, but it was slow going, she was tired and cold.
“Okay, but what about Hic-?” asked Ruffnut.
“Shh!” Ingrid shushed Ruffnut sharply. “You know the rule. No mentioning ‘him’ after the bath, we need to sleep and don’t want to make another trip to the harbor.” said Ingrid as they reached the village level near the smithy.
“Hello ladies,” said Hiccup as he closed the smithy door for the night, after finishing a vicious little tavern puzzle. “Your hair looks different like that. Well, goodnight.” He waved and he walked up to his home.
The surprised women stood there for a moment in shock as their ovaries blew out. Then as one they turned and trooped back down to the harbor to try cooling off again.
# # #
“Dad, can we go fishing?” Hiccup asked. Stoic could see his son was carrying a couple of fishing poles.
“Sure.” said Stoic, glad for the excuse to get away for a few hours. The tribe brought him all their problems, he tried his best to solve them all but it was such constant work.
Brandishing their fishing poles the other Vikings left the two men alone.
Once they were deep in the forest, they sat on the edge of a stream and lay some casts into the rushing waters.
“So what is it you want to talk about?” Stoic asked. They had been getting closer lately, talking more. It was better compared to the relationship they had before, when they had merely lived in the same house, but they were still working out so many things.
Stoic felt a chill run down his body, then he sighed. “I should have known this was coming at some point. Okay, what do you want to know?”
Hiccup shook his head. “I saw her die.”
“I was in the cabbage crates. Mom stuffed me in there. You picked up Mom and took her to the Great Hall. Ingrid found me after the battle.”
“I remember Ingrid bringing you to me there.”
“I’m sorry.” said Stoic putting a hand on his son’s shoulder.
“I told Queen Elinor.”
“Okay. Why?” Stoic asked slowly. The Scots were not friends, though Hiccup seemed to be changing that.
“She made me feel safe like Mom did.”
“Why didn’t you get married again?”
Stoic sighed. “I don’t know. I loved Val so very much. It hurt so much to lose her and the baby. I don’t want to feel that again.”
“Oh, you never knew, she was pregnant. She had just figured it out and told me that night. We were going to tell you, but the dragon raid....” Stoic trailed off, looking into the the rushing water and fiddling with his pole.
“Oh. I understand, that explains some things.”
“Yeah, I guess it does. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I get it now.”
“So now what?” asked Stoic, wondering if this fishing trip was over.
Hiccup smiled, “We catch some fish, or would you rather search for trolls and their sock horde?”
Stoic blinked then smiled and laughed.
# # #
Gobber and the teens were sitting around the bonfire on the observation deck, like they did during dragon training, warming their food. Gobber would call them together, to tell stories and share advice. He cared about all the teens and added a certain kind of outside advice to what the teens would get at home. He acted as the grandparent or uncle none of the teens had. He meant well but they all took his advice with a grain, or rather, several large cups of salt. It wasn’t that his advice was bad, it just needed lots of thinking about, before you could consider using it.
Tonight was different though, Gobber was quiet. Everyone was.
Finally, Astrid asked, “Gobber, what’s going to happen tomorrow?”
Gobber sighed, “We are going to finish mourning the dead from the Battle of the Nest.”
“Yes, but what comes after that...to us?”
“Yeah, I was wondering if ye would be asking about that.” Gobber looked around the circle of teens and they were all looking at him. Fishlegs was extra jittery.
Gobber turned to Ruffnut and Tuffnut. “Having your mother’s entire squad squashed was a terrible blow. The tribe needs to get back to making babies. We lost a lot of people and there are not a lot of children to replace them.” Gobber said, and everyone nodded.
“And since more women were killed Stoic is going to go against tradition and have the women choose their mates directly.” Gobber shifted on his bench. Stoic, Spitelout, Gothi, Ingrid and himself had discussed this a few weeks ago, because the conditions were unprecedented. The tribe wasn’t in danger currently, but the effects of so many unmarried men could have long-term consequences. The teens needed people to marry too. Gobber knew that Stoic was uncomfortable with the thought of raiding for women. Their own mothers had been slave-wives. It was necessary but it wasn’t right, they knew that. It was a wonder their mothers had survived the dragons long enough to have children. They had never gotten used to the dragon raids and had been eaten.
“What about us? There aren’t enough girls.” Ruffnut said quietly.
Gobber looked from Ruffnut to Astrid, he could tell they were worried, but not many others could.
“No, there aren’t. That’s one of the things I wanted to talk about tonight. Astrid, Ruffnut, do you want to choose husbands tomorrow?”
Astrid and Ruffnut exchanged a look and then looked at Hiccup who shrunk down under those intent gazes.
“You do know that many men want you?” Gobber asked pointedly.
The girls nodded.
“Now, you boys have the same question to answer. Do you want to be chosen for marriage tomorrow?”
Hiccup, Tuffnut, Snotlout and Fishlegs just looked at Gobber, who could see how pale they were. “You, all of you,” he included the girls, “are some of the highest status Vikings we have ever had. You are all incredibly valuable to the tribe. You boys, the women all want you too. They want to have your babies. Yes, even you Fishlegs.” Fishlegs was spinning the fish on his stick so quickly it was almost a blur.
“When we started dragon training, I knew this group would be different.” He looked directly at Hiccup, and everyone glanced at him. “But I never expected to end up teaching legends. I am proud to know each and everyone one of ye.” Gobber stood, his eyes were bright in the firelight.
“You are all just barely of marriageable age. If you wish, we could exclude you, you are quite young to be getting married and starting families. I don’t need an answer right now, but tell Stoic by tomorrow morning.”
The teens all nodded, somberly.
Gobber nodded and walked away to give them time to think and talk if they must.
# # #
The sky above Berk was a spectacular red-orange as the sun set. Bright lines of light covered the sky. The whole island felt like a scared space.
Stoic dropped the torch into the wood to light the huge bonfire. The entire tribe was around them and they quieted as the flames built and leapt into the evening sky. Hiccup could see everyone dressed in their best furs.
“We lost a lot of people this day a year ago. ” Stoic began. “Family. Friends. Husbands. Wives. Children. They died in battle like true Vikings. They would be welcomed by Odin into Valhalla or Freya into Folkvangr to prepare for Ragnarök. We saw a preview of what Ragnarök will be like. Now we mourn them one last time. We will not forget them. We can’t.” Stoic sounded so broken on those last words as he dropped his head, a single tear dripped into Stoic’s beard and he sat on the grass.
A great wail went up as the tribe wept. Women pulled their hair, men beat their chests, dragons keened, and for a time it was safe to cry. Ruffnut and Tuffnut were holding onto each other weeping over their mother. Hiccup felt sad of all those who had died and he still missed Mom, but there were no tears inside him, he was still different from all the others and he wondered why.
After a long time the wailing and tears faded.
Stoic stood again. “It is time to continue our lives. We must marry and produce children to rebuild the tribes. We also know that there are not enough women to go around. So we are going to run counter to tradition. We will let the women choose. Then we will figure out what to do for those who remain. We will be going to the Althing, there perhaps, wives can be found. The teens have asked to be excluded for now as marriage prospects.” Stoic had the teens stand next to him. Snotlout was biting his lip real hard from nerves looking like he was going to barf. Fishlegs was twisting his fingers together. The twins were holding hands. Hiccup and Astrid just stood together.
Stoic gestured, “Ladies.”
There were a large number of longing looks at Hiccup and the other teens, but finally the VWL moved into the crowd and began choosing husbands. Sometimes the women were shy, most were direct, a couple of fist fights broke out. Stoic would wade in and brake them up, having the man choose, but the choices were often quite tense.
Stoic went back to the fire and was looking over the assemblage, then jerked in surprise as he felt someone take his hand. He noticed Ingrid beside him.
“Ah, Ingrid. What are you doing up here? Don’t you have a choice to make?” He gestured to the crowd.
“I’ve already made my choice.”
“Really, who?” asked Stoic, looking around.
Ingrid smiled gently as she ducked her blushing face and looked up through her lashes, “I choose you.”
Stoic looked away. “I won’t be able to love you, like I did Val.”
“And I won’t be able to love you like I did Defiant, but it would be... nice to feel some strong arms around me sometimes.” Ingrid looked wistful as she traced a pattern on his hand with a finger.
“It would be nice to have someone to wrap these strong arms around on cold nights.” Stoic said gently, looking at her.
“Hey, since when was he an option?” yelled Helga over the shoulder of the man she was hugging.
“Well, he’s not a teen and not married, so he was always an option, even if he didn’t believe it. I just noticed that no one else had. You’re not sorry are you?” called Ingrid back.
Helga pulled back, looked into her chosen’s eyes and smiled, “No, not sorry at all.” And they embraced again.
Stoic was smiling over the crowd. Gobber led the other widowers off to the Great Hall to drink themselves into insensibility. The intact families cheered and dragons warbled. He looked at Ingrid and frowned.
“What’s wrong?” Ingrid asked.
“I wasn’t expecting this.” Stoic turned to Hiccup. “You’re going to have to marry us.”
“Wha-ah. Me? Marry you?” Hiccup’s gast was extremely flabbered.
“You’re the son of the chief, you have the authority to marry people in my place. I certainly can’t marry us myself.”
“Ah-ha. Wha-what...do I do?” Hiccup felt so out of his depth that jumping off Toothless’ back at maximum altitude seemed like walking through a meadow.
“Here, I have notes for just this occasion.” Stoic handed Hiccup a scrap of paper.
Hiccup took the paper but just stood there as his Dad and new mother stood up straight in front of him.
“Just read it.” Stoic prompted.
“‘Say something nice about the couple,’” read Hiccup out loud.
A titter ran through the assemblage, and Hiccup blushed so hard he though his hair would burst into flame.
“Ah, you look nice, Dad, and um, Ingrid,” which was true they were dressed in their best furs.
Hiccup looked around, everyone had gentle smiles for him, they were not making fun of him, but it still felt intensely embarrassing, his heart was beating so hard. Taking on the Red Death had been almost relaxing in comparison to this.
Hiccup read through the rest of the ceremony, they exchanged swords and rings, and finished, “I declare you husband and wife. Be happy and may Frigga bless this union. You may kiss the bride.”
“Thanks son.” Stoic said gently then his kissed his bride thoroughly. There were many cheers and aw’s from the tribe.
Ingrid pulled Hiccup into a hug. “Thank you Hiccup. I’ll bring something good for dinner, okay?”
“Ah, sure.” said Hiccup uncertainly.
“I’ll take it from here,” said Stoic, retrieving his notes. “Who’s next?”
Helga waved her hand, so she and the twin’s father came up and were married.
Ruffnut and Tuffnut ran over and hugged their new mother.
Hiccup found Astrid’s hand in his. “Are you okay?” she asked. Hiccup was looking, not sad exactly but not anything really.
“I don’t know.”
“Me neither, can we go somewhere else?”
“Sure,” said Hiccup as Astrid quietly lead them away as Stoic married another couple.
Once they were clear of the village Astrid asked, “So, new mom. That good, right?”
“She’ll never even try to replace your real mom, I know that. She’s a good person.”
They stopped in her fighting ring in the forest and sat against the boulder. Hiccup knew the trees were heavily scared, but he could not see it in the darkness.
“Please, Hiccup, what’s wrong?”
Hiccup looked at her for a long time, took her hand and then touched his chest, “I don’t feel anything.”
“Well, I know I can’t feel like you do because I still have both of my parents but I bet its complicated.”
Hiccup shook his head. “No. It’s not complicated. Building a machine is complicated, but this.... I don’t know how anyone feels. I am not feeling anything. Not sad, not happy, not even scared anymore; just...nothing. Shouldn’t I feel something? Happiness for my Dad because he has someone. Betrayal because she is taking Mom’s place. All I could feel was terror for having to do that with no notice. When my heart stopped pounded, I was empty again. I couldn’t even cry to mourn Mom. I wish I was normal.” Hiccup closed his eyes and dropped his head against the rock.
Astrid didn’t know what to say. “It’s going to be okay.”
“I hope so. I have no idea were everything is going or what I should do. I just want to help. Thank you for being here. You’re a good friend. I’m hoping it helps. I don’t know. How can you stand to be around me?”
“It’s pretty easy. I’m your friend. I wasn’t for a long time. You deserved better.”
“Sure, no problem.” said Astrid as she snuggled up next to Hiccup, “You want to stay at my place, I think it might be ...noisy at yours tonight.”
“That would be nice; better then the smithy. Thank you.” said Hiccup looking at her, as he put his arm around her, and put his head back again, drinking in the quiet of the forest.