~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 13: The Althing
“So how will the Althing help with the woman problem and the raiding of Scotland?” asked Hiccup.
“Well, son. At the very least we would be able to buy slave wives for the men.” said Stoic.
“Dad, that’s not a good solution and doesn’t help with the Scots.”
“No, but it is an option and is a simple answer to the most pressing problem.” Stoic held up a hand to keep Hiccup from butting in. “But there should be unattached women from other tribes available that might consider marrying into the tribe.”
“Okay, but what about protecting the Scots?”
“I am not exactly sure. I don’t really have a good understanding of the law and other nations. That’s why I want to talk to the lawspeaker and introduce you to him as well.”
“Yes, you. I don’t exactly have a plan yet. There are too many things I just don’t know about this situation, but we do know you have an incredible amount of status. I am hoping we can leverage that into doing something for the Scots. We are becoming quite rich now that we have the dragons on our side, just with the resources we have here. We can leverage our wealth and status to influence the laws, we should be able to protect the Scots that way. Especially if you marry that Scottish princess of yours. Son, you are going to have to tell everyone about the Green Death. I sent Astrid to go get evidence of it. We’ll leave for the Althing as soon as she is back.”
“Oh, okay.” Hiccup was looking a little wild around the eyes. He was glad all the women were married now, expect Astrid and Ruffnut, but Ruffnut was still here.
“Don’t worry, I set the twins to get evidence of the Red Death, so we better hurry up and tell everyone before they get back. We don’t want them being distracted learning about your increase in status.” said Stoic, standing.
“Oh boy.” said Hiccup running his hand through his hair, thinking about what he was going to tell everyone about the Green Death.
“Come on. It’ll be fun. It’s great to brag and you don’t even have to exaggerate.”
# # #
Astrid wobbled on the long log she had wedged between the teeth of the Green Death, trying to dislodge a tooth. Stoic had asked her to go get some evidence of the Death Hiccup had killed in Scotland, since she was the only one who knew where it was, besides Hiccup.
It hadn’t taken her long to find it even if it was still somewhat covered in snow. It was only just beginning to decompose on the sunlit side that melted during the day. She had already chopped free several of the largest scales she could reach and a little claw off a foot. She had to be careful not to overload Stormfly.
Astrid really wanted a tooth. They showed off the true size of the beast. The jaw of the Green Death had shattered when it had impacted the side of the mountain, there were a tooth that was loose but she still needed to break it free. She jumped as high as she could as she kept a hand on the jaw. She struggled to keep her balance as the whole head wobbled.
Something landed with a squish not far from her. She covered her nose and mouth as the smell of rotting meat slapped her throat. Stormfly flapped to drive the smell back a little.
“Thanks, Stormfly.” Astrid said as she regained her balance on the long thin log. Then she looked at the eye more closely. Liquid was quickly oozing from it but she could see something, embedded in the lens, an arrow.
Astrid took a step closer, further out on the log. As she realized what that arrow meant, the head shifted, she slipped and fell, catching the log between her legs. She yelped, the pain between her legs was incredible, and saw stars in her vision as she wrapped herself around the log to keep from falling more.
Then, a loud crack sounded behind her as the tooth broke free of the jaw.
“Loki’s codpiece,” gasped Astrid, as she, the log and the tooth crashed to the ground.
Stormfly came over and gave her groaning rider a nuzzle.
# # #
Stormfly was circling over Castle DunBroch. Astrid had gotten directions from Lord MacGuffin when she went there looking for Merida. A crowd was gathering in the big open field near the castle. Astrid still wasn’t exactly sure why she was here. Astrid had Stormfly land near them.
Astrid could see Merida, Fergus and Elinor come to the front of the crowd. She slipped off Stormfly and gasped a little at the pain that shot into her abdomen as her feet hit the ground. She wondered how badly she had hurt herself. She wouldn’t stay, she had to get home quickly anyway, she’d rest there. She picked up her ax, it would be comforting, but it was dull from all the chopping.
Astrid marched over, looking at Merida. Merida took a step forward and stood like a queen.
“Astrid.” Merida greeted her cordially but cautiously, she was armed after all.
“Merida, can we talk, privately?”
Astrid could see the princess was surprised.
“Um, of course. The castle?”
“Nah, just out there.” Astrid gestured to the open field.
Fergus subtly handed Merida his sword as Elinor shooed everyone back to work as the two girls walked deep into the field. Fergus watched from the edge of the field.
“You were there when Hiccup fought the Green Death, weren’t you?” Astrid said, but it wasn’t really a question.
“What really happened?”
“What? You mean he hasn’t told you?” asked Merida.
“He’s said some things, but I just found out, not everything. Please, what happened?”
“Well, Toothless was feeling better. He was finally strong enough for sustained flight. Hiccup invited me to fly as we began the search of the Death. He flew us up high so I could touch the clouds.”
Astrid looked away in pain, that had been her special thing with Hiccup. Jealousy and anger roared in her heart but she needed the story.
“We flew to the Isle of Sky to start looking, and he spotted a large cave, that he said was the right size. Toothless shot a fireball into the cave to see and there were lots of dragons all over it. They started flying away, and then the Death came out and began to chase us. I shot it with what arrows I had, then we ducked into the blizzard. We were trying to shoot it but the blizzard was icing us up. Then we almost flew into its mouth.”
Merida paused for a breath. “We dove, we were going to lure it into following us into the ground. We were going to sacrifice ourselves to kill it.”
Astrid stopped walking and looked at Merida.
Merida shrugged “It was the only thing we could do. Then will ‘o the wisps appeared.”
“Will ‘o the wisps?”
“They are ...magical creatures, they lead you to your fate. They led us out of the dive and over that protrusion that gutted the Death and into a ravine that shielded us from the explosion.”
Merida gave her a look, “You ride a dragon.”
“Yeah.” She looked back at Stormfly.
“Astrid, what’s going on?” asked Merida.
“Stoic, Hiccup’s dad, sent me to get proof of Hiccup taking down the Green Death.” They began walking again. Merida could see the large tooth strapped across the back of Stormfly.
“Okay, but why are you here, we are a little out of the way?”
“You hit it.”
“I hit what?”
“The Green Death. You got it right in the eye with an arrow.”
“You came all this way to tell me that?”
The two girls walked several more steps.
“What does he see in you?” asked Astrid.
“I hope a friend, but then I am also princess.” Merida shrugged.
Astrid rolled her eyes, and she looked back at the king who was there at the edge of the field, she could see his crown sparkle in the sunlight.
“Do you love him?” asked Astrid quietly.
“Do you love Hiccup?”
Merida sighed. “Ach, I don’t know. I do like him, I know that, but love.” She shrugged. “I thought he loved you.”
“I don’t know if he does. He’s never said it to me, I was wondering if he had to you.” Astrid said, but Merida only shook her head.
“All I know is that he was hurt and needed help.” Merida said.
“He said you shot him out of the sky on a dark night.”
“That too, but he was hurt much worse then that. Your tribe wasn’t kind to him.”
“No, we weren’t.” Astrid looked down.
“He spoke well of you.” Merida said kindly.
“Really? I don’t really deserve it. I ignored him most of the time. I beat him up because he was winning dragon training.”
“It showed him you cared.”
“Astrid, what is he trying to do about the raids?”
“I’m not sure. I know he talked to his dad about not going on a raid, but I don’t know of any alternative to deal with our baby problem. From what I know, some tribes raid for fun and profit.” Astrid licked her lips, “If I were you, you should assume that to stop the raids you’ll have to marry some influential Viking, but I have no idea who that would be. Stoic sent me to get evidence of him killing the Green Death to take to the Althing...” Astrid trailed off. She paused and turned away from the princess, spinning her ax in her hand, thinking hard.
“What?” asked Merida.
"Son of a half troll, rat eating, munge bucket!" Astrid began swinging her ax wildly.
“What?” Asked Merida with more concern, she had her sword out, ready to defend herself.
Astrid was bouncing with concern for Hiccup. “He’s done stupid and crazy, now he’s going to try insane. I gotta go. He needs what I have, if he wants to prove himself.”
“Sorry. I have to go. I can’t be late with this. He’ll need those things more than anything.” Astrid ran back to Stormfly and took off.
# # #
“We’re here.” said Stoic as the longboat crunched into the soft gravel of the beach.
Stoic and Hiccup leapt over the side onto the beach, and stood waiting as another Viking approached them.
“Stoic, is that you?”
“Aye, Longbeard. It’s been a while. How have you been?”
“Fine, fine. Every year you miss the Althing we wonder if you’d been eaten by those dragons of yours.”
“Nope not yet. But we have some news this year that I want to bring up to the lawspeaker.”
“Oh really, What?”
Stoic gave him a look, but merely said, “This is my son, I need to introduce him and my new wife Ingrid around, and brought some iron for trading, among other things.”
Longbeard smiled, he liked getting the news first, but understood when people wanted to hold tight to it. “Alright, have it your way. You can setup over there,” The man with the beard that reached past his waist pointed. “Things will get going in a day or two.”
“Excellent. Thank you.” said Stoic.
# # #
Lifa was tired of all the same old people that came to their bread stall at the Althing. This was supposed to be a way for her to meet men, but mostly they only saw louts that were no fun to play with.
Lifa was helping her parents as usual. Papa was stoking the second oven as Mum was plucking loaves from the first oven.
She could see the Kobb field just across from the bakery, most of the men would go to brewer next door. She handed her customer his loaves and took the pennies in return and placed then in her apron.
Her ears perked up when she heard a voice say, “That bread smells wonderful after all that time on the longboat.” Lifa looked around, coming onto the end of the line was a very large man with a fur tunic and small helmet, he was acting like a boy so excited for the fresh bread. His face so was young and innocent looking. She wondered if he was the enforcer of the group, he didn’t have the look of the leader, but had the strength.
Several others were with him, a muscular boy with curly rams horns on his helmet made her hips soften. He must be the one in charge, he looked so surly but masterful. There were also two couples in the group, but she soon realized that one was a set of twins as they turned, there was no romance between them, just a sibling rivalry. The boy was cute, but to coarse for her liking.
The other couple was a couple. She could tell there was some romance there, even if they weren’t holding hands. The boy didn’t seem like much, though he had an odd metal leg. Lifa wondered if he had done something heroic to save the girl, because the girl seemed too strong for the boy with her spiky armor, but quite close to him for some reason.
Then something happened she didn’t expect. “Hey, Snotlout, get some for all of us.” said the kid with the metal leg.
“Aw, you want me to pay for all of us, now?” complained the one called Snotlout, Lifa thought that was a hideous name.
“Oh here you go,” said the armored girl as she tossed five coins to Snotlout and then turned to watch the game of Kobb being played out.
Things were suddenly shuffling themselves in Lifa’s head. She knew how these gangs of kids worked, but somehow that skinny kid with the missing leg was large and in charge of this group and the armored girl was the lieutenant, not the obvious leader. How odd.
Soon Snotlout and the big teen, who was bouncing with excitement, were next. “How much?” Snotlout asked.
“Five small loaves to the penny.”
Snotlout laid down the five coins. Lifa was surprised, most underlings would pocket a coin or two if they knew their boss didn’t know how much the bread cost.
“And five for me too.” said the big one laying down an extra penny.
“Relax Fishlegs, there’ll be plenty.”
“What kind of name was Fishlegs? That was a silly name.” Lifa thought to herself as she gathered the 30 small loaves.
“Thanks, babe.” said Snotlout with an easy smile. The two teens then moved off with filled arms. They all moved with an easy confidence only the most grizzled of warriors seemed to, but without the haunted look many warriors had.
Lifa kept an eye on the group since they were close to the stall. She kept finding herself playing with her hair whenever someone the small group looked toward her, though he didn’t seem to notice her.
Several Valhunds seemed to really like the skinny leader too, as they congregated around his legs and yipped for pats.
The one named Snotlout did notice her and that was good enough. She chatted with him when he came back for more with Fishlegs. She was going to have to find out more about the Hairy Hooligans. They were actually nice to her, which was quite refreshing.
Everyone cheered as the king was knocked over and then laughed as the victors of the Kobb game emptied their horns and fell over drunk.
# # #
# # #
Hiccup was looking at the the lines of people coming before the lawspeaker. Dad had said some new tribes were being recognized.
The Bear Slayers had just been recognized. Now the lawspeaker was inspecting another group. This one bothered Hiccup. They were standing in precise ranks, men and women in pairs. The men were reasonably well dressed with leather, fabric and fur, but the women were all dressed in rags, some barely dressed at all really, and it was hard to tear his eyes away. But it was obvious why they were dressed in rags, they were slaves, each man had a leash going to the collar of the woman next to him.
“Are those slave-wives?”
“Yes, but more like breeding stock.” Stoic rumbled in disapproval.
Hiccup noticed a pattern in how they were lined up. At the front were women with babies in their arms (boys then girls), then pregnant women—Hiccup was wondering how they had handled the arduous journey here—then women neither pregnant or with children, they were the smallest group.
The lawspeaker was moving slowly through the ranks talking to the men and women and examining the children and running his hand over the bellies of the pregnant women.
“Who is that guy?” asked Hiccup.
“That is the lawspeaker. He is inspecting the tribe to see if they meet the requirements for forming a tribe. From here it looks like they do, but barely.”
However Hiccup was close enough to see that the lawspeaker had an unpleasant and slightly desperate look on his face. He was looking carefully at each women and child seeming to look for something wrong with them. The women all looked tiny compared to the women from Berk. Many of them seemed thinner then Astrid and Ruffnut, though they looked healthy enough.
“Very well, you have met the requirements!” called the lawspeaker resignedly. “Vikings welcome the newest tribe! The Skivvy Scroungers! Raise your banner!”
Hiccup gasped as the banner was raised, it was a truncated triangle with a hooked knife. As cheers were raised for the tribe, Hiccup was wondering what to do. He had found the raiders who had gone to Scotland.
# # #
The tribe before them was wrapping up their introductions and grievances before the lawspeaker. Stoic and the tribe were up next before the lawspeaker. The lawspeaker and some chiefs were sitting on a high spot in the bowl of the thingstead.
Stoic turned and signaled to Gobber. Hiccup saw Gobber throw some chemicals into their fire way over at their campsite, which raised a greenish blue smoke. The men with them carried the large box they had shipped in forward with them.
“The Althing recognizes Stoic the Vast.” called the lawspeaker lifting his stick of office. “It’s good to see you again.” the lawspeaker said as Stoic came close to shake arms. He paused for a moment looking into Stoic’s face. “You’ve seen some heavy things, Stoic.”
“Thank you. It is good to see you again too. Yes, I have seen heavy things, I have seen something of what Ragnarök will look like.”
“Really?” the lawspeaker’s eyebrows rose high on his forehead.
Stoic just nodded.
“I would like to introduce my son, if I may?”
“This is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, my son! He is the mightiest Viking on life!” introduced Stoic, speaking to the crowd. There was a buzz of whispers at that. Hiccup felt uncomfortable as so many people looked and pointed at him. Valhunds were running excitedly through the crowd.
Stoic went to the large box and withdrew something bigger then he was.
“What’s so special about a whale bone?” BigEars called from the sidelines.
Stoic ignored him and dropped it in front of the lawspeaker.
“Is that a...tooth?” the lawspeaker asked rising to examine it.
“Aye, it is.” Stoic reached into the box and returned with a claw.
“A...claw? What kind of dragons do you fight on Berk, Nidhug himself!?”
“Hardly. I led my tribe to its destruction at the fangs of the Red Death. My son saved us.” Stoic threw down a red scale that were nearly as large as a shield.
“He also saved the Scots from the Green Death.” He threw down a green scale next to the red one.
“The Scots? Why did he help them?”
“Because it was the right thing to do. They shot him and his dragon out of the sky, then nursed him back to health. They were under attack by dragons and he helped them defend themselves. He didn’t have to do that. Then with the help of the Scottish Princess they fought the Green Death and won.”
Hiccup was trying to stand there quietly though he was blushing pretty hard. Dad had said he was going to brag about him but this was a bit much.
“But more then anything he ended the war with the dragons by discovering they can be trained.”
“Trained?” the lawspeaker asked, and that word was whispered throughout the crowd as a tidal wave.
Hiccup could see shadows on the ground. He looked up but the Sun was too dazzling, but he thought he could see something up there.
“Trained.” Stoic stated, “To not hunt and kill but to work together with humans.”
“How...” but the lawspeaker never did finish that particular sentence.
Blasts of Gronkle lava exploded on the ridge above the thingstead. Deadly Nadders swooped low over the crowd and laid fire down around the people. Monstrous Nightmares made streaks of fire along the beach. The Boneknapper roared and whipped the ocean into a froth.
“Enough! Stop it and settle down!” Hiccup shouted and the dragons with their riders perched on the ridge.
The crowd and the lawspeaker looked at the dragons and back to Hiccup with awe in their eyes. The Valhunds were going crazy.
After a long moment the lawspeaker gathered himself and went back to his seat. He understood what was happening. The show of force was extremely effective. He picked up his staff and waited patiently, he could show power as well, but it became obvious that Hiccup was quite content to stand there waiting as well.
Finally the lawspeaker asked, “What is it that you want?”
“I’d like the raids against Scotland to end.” Hiccup said simply.
Whispers ran through the crowd.
“I don’t have the power to do that.”
“Oh.” said Hiccup disappointed. “Who does?”
“At the moment, no one does,” said the lawspeaker carefully, but he was watching Hiccup carefully.
“How do I find someone with that power?”
“You/ cannot, only all of us can,” he gestured to the assembled chiefs.
Hiccup shook his head. “I just want to protect my tribe and my friends in Scotland. For three hundred years there has been war with the dragons and I found a way to befriend them and end the war. I just want to stop the wars and the raids so no one has to be afraid of being kidnapped or killed. I don’t want any one to feel the loss of a loved one taken by raiders. I want everyone’s pain to end. Surely, there must be a way to accomplish that?” Hiccup asked passionately.
The chief next to the lawspeaker touched his hand and they whispered for a moment, then the one on the other side also made quiet comment.
“There is a way to do that.” the lawspeaker said.
“Really, how?” asked Hiccup eagerly.
“We need a king.”
“And who should be king?” asked Hiccup.
“I would be king!” shouted BigEars stepping forward. “With the strength of the Vikings and the power of these dragons, Vikings would rule the world!”
The lawspeaker shot BigEars a sidelong glance, then looking back to Hiccup asked, “What do you think, should BigEars be king?”
Hiccup kept his eyes on BigEars, he was close enough and dangerous enough to warrant close watching. Then Stoic stood between them.
“No, he should not.”
“He would bring war to the world.”
“So? War is good for Vikings, so that we may fill Valhalla.”
“We should have peace and friendship.”
“And who would even try to bring peace?” asked the lawspeaker.
Hiccup thought for a while. “I would.”
“You? You would be king?”
Hiccup stood straight and tall, “Yes. I would be king.”
“You?” sneered BigEars. “A runt like you, wants to be king?”
Stoic turned, flexing his hands, but Hiccup said, “No, I don’t want/ to be king, but I would rather be a king trying to bring peace then let you bring war, fire and death. And I will not/ let you use dragons to do that.” All the dragons put their heads down, few people noticed listening to the argument, but the lawspeaker saw.
“Not let me. I don’t see how a weak runt like you could stop me. I am a Viking, I am strong, the strong must rule.”
“What is it with you guys? You think how hard you can punch or how big a rock you can lift is strength. All you do is go around destroying things. You never make/ anything!”
“I would make an empire that would last a thousand years!”
“You don’t know how!”
The lawspeaker banged his staff. “Hiccup, would you be king?”
“BigEars, do you challenge that?”
“Hiccup, do you accept the challenge?”
“If I do?”
“Then there is a holmgang, trial by combat.”
“And if I don’t?”
“BigEars becomes king.”
Hiccup felt his dad’s hand on his shoulder.
“I accept the challenge.”
# # #
Merida was wandering the castle, looking for the boys. They had gotten away from Maudie again. She had just left the kitchens and was trying to think of the next most likely place for them to be.
She was coming up to a passage when she heard a sound she hadn’t heard for a while and saw a pale light ahead. She peaked around the corner, a will ‘o the wisp was floating in the middle of the corridor.
Merida could feel her senses enhance, as the adrenaline rushed into her blood. Things always seemed to get exciting when these magical creatures appeared. She came around the corner and the wisp beckoned her to follow, which she did after grabbing a torch. They led her into the depths of the castle and to the dungeons, which were empty at the moment. Fergus was a merciful king, he didn’t keep people in the dungeon for long.
The lines of wisps went into the large room that was central to all the cells. The last wisp was over the table in the middle of the room. As the last wisp disappeared Merida looked around but no other wisps appeared. She looked at the table and saw it was covered with chains and shackles. Merida licked her lip and looked around again, because she had no idea what it meant.