~ Raided: Chapter 04: Getting to Know You
The black dragon stood and began limping its way behind the humans. It could not close one wing completely because of the injury. Fergus had MacGuffin’s son and the Dingwall hunk flank the dragon, ready to take it down if it tried anything as the rest of the warriors surrounded the dragon and the Viking.
As they entered the lit great hall, the thump of Fergus’ peg leg and the squeak of Hiccup’s artificial leg resounded in the empty space. Their eyes met, the question was obvious.
“A demon bear. It attacked my wife and daughter,” said Fergus.
“A dragon. To defend my tribe,” said Hiccup.
Fergus nodded, a slight respect grew between them.
Once inside the Great Hall, Elinor ordered space made for the dragon to lie down, and extra candles and torches brought for light so they could care of the wounded. The servants were giving the dragon a wide berth and many warriors stayed nearby to guard the dragon and the teen.
“I’ve got to take care of Toothless.” Hiccup protested as Merida tried to sit him down at a table near one of the fires.
“Since you’re the only one able to care for him, let us care for you first so you can.” Elinor said as she came up to them with her sewing basket on her elbow.
“Here now. Let me help you with your coat.” said Merida. Merida could see that his arm had been sliced by an arrow and wondered if it had been hers, as she helped him remove his gear. It took some effort for Hiccup to shed his heavy leather flying gear, being careful not to move his arm too much.
“What are you doing?” Hiccup said swatting at Merida’s hands as she began unlacing his shirt. Toothless raised his head and several warriors stood and brought their weapons to bear on the dragon. Fergus began to move forward to protect his family.
“Easy. Easy,” warned Merida. “We need to stitch up that arm of yours. We can’t do that with your shirt on and it’s all covered with blood anyway.”
“Okay, but it’s pretty cold in here.” Hiccup grumbled. Toothless put his head down on the floor again and everyone relaxed.
“It is, so quit whining and let’s get this over with then you can cover up.” Merida said, though she was able to learn some things about the teen boy in front of her. He was young, just sprouting chest hair. He was a hard worker with his chest and arm muscles sharply defined. His hands and forearms were covered with many small burn scars. She wondered if that was from raising dragons, surely that was dangerous. It reminded her of the scars on the blacksmiths.
“This is going to sting a bit,” said Merida, as she cleansed the wound with wine.
Hiccup hissed in pain as the wine ran over his open wound but he’d hurt himself worse in the smithy back in Berk.
Elinor’s deft fingers stitched it up; Merida covered it with honey before bandaging it and placing it in a sling.
“Thanks,” said Hiccup.
“Now, let’s take care of your dragon.” Elinor said.
They moved to the dragon that had been watching intently nearby.
“It’s okay buddy. We’re going to take care of you.” Hiccup said, patting Toothless on the side before moving to the injury. The feathers were sticking out of the entry wound, which Hiccup pulled free.
“That’s three feathers so there shouldn’t be any left inside him.” Merida said.
“Good, that’ll make things easier.” Elinor commented.
The arrow had entered the dragon on the belly side, travelled through the muscles of the side and was poking out under the wing, it seemed to have missed the major organs. With the head exposed, it was relatively easy to remove the arrow just by pulling it through, though it took MacGuffin’s son to do it, as he was so strong. Toothless roared in pain as Kevin pulled out the towel wrapped arrow. Several people peeked out of corners to see what had made the great roar. Rumors of a live dragon in the castle were one thing, seeing it was another.
Merida staunched the flow of fresh blood with bandages, as Hiccup comforted his dragon.
“Hiccup, I think it would be best to leave these wounds open so they can drain. I don't think my needles could get through that hide anyway. We’ll cover them with bandages and keep them clean. Will that be enough?” Elinor asked.
“Yes, that should work.” Hiccup said tiredly, though the sun was finally coming in the high windows.
With rope and plenty of bandages, they covered the wounds and let the dragon sleep.
“We should put you in bed to rest, Hiccup.” Elinor said.
“Nah. I’ll stay here with Toothless, but a blanket would be nice.” Hiccup said picking up his helmet.
“Coming right up.” said Merida, turning to find a servant.
“Very well, I’ll have a cot set up for you. It will be noisy here.” Elinor warned as she waved to a servant.
“I’ll be fine.” Hiccup yawned.
“Maudie, I want you to keep your bow with you at all times!” Elinor called as she saw Maudie herding the boys down for breakfast, though they stopped dead in their tracks as they saw the great black dragon. “We don’t know how often these dragon attacks will come.”
“Actually, dragons tend to raid every fifteen days, at least at our village. They were pretty consistent for nearly three hundred years,” said Hiccup.
“Oh? Well, that is handy to know,” said Elinor.
“No problem.” said Hiccup settling down near Toothless, he tipped his helmet forward to shield his eyes, but he could see all the guards eyeing him. Merida got a blanket from a servant. Of course, it was terribly scratchy wool but at least it had a soft fur edge. She put it over Hiccup, and he and his dragon curled up together.
# # #
“Merida!” called Queen Elinor her bow slung over her shoulder. Her quiver was full of fresh arrows.
“Yes, mum?” Merida looked up to Queen Elinor on the second level of the Great Hall.
“Your father wants to speak to us in Lord MacGuffin’s office. Come now, please.”
“Yes, mum.” said Merida as she picked up her bow and ran upstairs. There were plenty of guards in the Great Hall but Merida and Elinor were taking turns watching the boy and his dragon. If the Viking was to try anything, the women were to take out the dragon.
Merida came into the office and her father gave her a nod as she noticed that her family and the other leaders were crowded around a table in the middle.
“Thank you all for coming. We learned a lot from that engagement and we need to adjust how we are going to defend ourselves. This is not a siege in the human sense. The dragons don’t care about the people; they want the livestock. Since they can fly, they can ignore the walls. Elinor, Merida, I want you on this high ground over here, this will give better coverage of the pens and stables.” said Fergus
“It would help if we had better light,” said Elinor.
Fergus scanned the map that was on the table that showed the castle grounds. “How about a bonfire on top of these towers?” Fergus asked Lord MacGuffin pointing at a couple of large towers near the stables.
“Aye, that can do it. We’ll have to reinforce the roof and add a slate platform, but it will do the job. It will take a lot of firewood though. We’re going to have to gather more. This cold has used a lot of resources,” said Lord MacGuffin.
“Get on that, make sure they are well armed, just in case.” Fergus advised.
“Hiccup said we should expect another dragon raid in fifteen days.” Merida said.
“That may be, lass, but he is a Viking and rides a dragon. We can’t trust him. After the Viking raids last summer we need to watch out for ourselves. We may be able to use him as a hostage to stop the raids.” Fergus stated.
Merida nodded; they had only known Hiccup for a very little while. He seemed sincere, but they had nothing to prove his word against. The memory of Aibhlinn’s sliced clothes hardened her heart against him. Vikings were vicious monsters.
Merida listened as her father continued to outline the plan for the next battle with the dragons.
# # #
Merida spent the morning in the Great Hall keeping an eye on Hiccup and his dragon as they slept. He looked so young, but his eyes said he had seen a lot, very little of it pleasant.
Merida wasn’t alone in the Great Hall, there were plenty of guards, though their main job was to give her time to take up her bow and kill the dragon herself. However, few people came to the Great Hall with the dragon there, though a few came to peek, like her brothers. They and Maudie just stared for a long time before going off to play somewhere else.
Now that the sun was up, she didn’t want to sleep again. Naps tended to make her feel all fuzzy headed, but she was planning to go to bed early tonight.
Merida sat near the fire and let her body take in the warmth that helped relax her aching muscles.
Near lunchtime, Hiccup woke up and looked around.
“Good morning.” Merida called from across the large room.
“Still morning?” asked Hiccup, as he pushed himself up with his good arm.
“Barely, it’s almost lunchtime. Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.” Hiccup shrugged, but winced as his arm reminded him that it was still hurt.
“Does your dragon need anything?”
Hiccup gave Toothless a pat. “Nah, we ate yesterday on the coast, he’ll be good for a few days.”
“Good, so what does he eat?”
“He likes fish. Cod and salmon mostly.”
“And what do you like, Hiccup?” asked Merida
“Fish is fine, as long as it’s cooked.” He said, coming over to the girl.
Merida gave him a sidelong glance as she waved to a serving girl who turned toward the kitchen. “Cooked? Do people eat it raw where you are from?”
Hiccup gave a small laugh; someone noticed his admittedly small joke. “Hardly, though Toothless regurgitated a raw fish I gave him and made me take a bite and swallow.”
“Oh,” said Merida with a small shiver.
“He was sharing the food I gave him back with me as a way to show friendship.”
“Really?” asked Merida, looking more closely at the boy.
“Yeah. It wasn’t like he had anything else. We were both trying to give friendship a chance. I didn’t kill him when I had the chance and he didn’t kill me when he had the chance. I thought it was worth a shot to give him food and he gave me a share right back.”
“So what would you like to eat? We have meat, sausage and haggis.” asked Merida, pointing to the various things on the plate the serving girl left before him.
“What’s haggis?” Hiccup poked at the dark round thing on his plate.
“Oh, it’s meat, onions and oats, stuffed in a sheep’s stomach. It’s good.” Merida smiled broadly.
“Sure.” Hiccup shrugged.
Merida watched as Hiccup dug into his haggis and ate the whole thing.
“You know, most people have a hard time eating their first haggis,” commented Merida.
“It’s fine, after raw fish and Astrid’s yak nog, and weeks of travel rations this isn’t bad.” Hiccup said offhandedly, but he was beginning to suspect that Merida had been playing a trick on him.
“You don’t want her yak nog. She’s not a very good cook,” cautioned Hiccup, his face serious.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
There was a lull in the conversation as she checked his wound.
“You’re not very big for a Viking.”
Hiccup groaned, Toothless opened his eyes to check on his rider, but he could see the girl checking Hiccup’s arm. “Tell me about it. No, I’m not. My father is as big as your father, but I’ll probably not grow up all that big.”
“I’m sorry.” Merida could tell that looked to be a sore point for the young man. “But you do ride a dragon.”
“Yes. Yes, I do,” said Hiccup gently looking at Toothless.
“We’ve been invaded by Vikings before, there were raids over the summer.” Merida said.
“It wouldn’t have been my tribe, we’ve been busy fighting dragons for the past 300 years; no time for raids. There are many tribes though.” Hiccup said, but the conversation died.
# # #
“...I punched Mor’du in the face, but he just picked me up like a rag doll and threw me across the circle. Merida shot him but he just charged her down, I was trying to crawl my way over but I was too slow. I could see his jaws clamping down on her head. Then Elinor, who was still a bear, threw off the clans and charged Mor’du. Their fight made the earth shake. Mor’du kept trying to get back to eat Merida. Elinor kept pushing him against one of the megaliths. Mor’du threw her off, and charged but the rock was broken and crushed him. His spirit rose through the rock and thanked Merida for breaking his curse. He was the prince from the ancient kingdom, and then Merida apologized and told Elinor that she loved her and broke the spell. Elinor and the boys were human again. And I’ve never been more happy to have my family around me in my life,” said Fergus, finishing off another tankard.
Hiccup took a swig from his own tankard to give himself time to digest that story. Demon bears, witches, and magic spells. He almost had to remind himself that this was all quite real. The pain in his arm was evidence of that. Besides, what could he say against it, he rode a dragon?
“That is an amazing story. You are all very brave.” Hiccup commented, though he wondered about the women’s side of the story. Their occasional indulgent smiles said there was some exaggeration going on, but their seriousness at the end was a concern.
“So what’s your story?” asked Fergus.
Hiccup leaned back. The room was warm after dinner, though the fire was low.
Hiccup had spent most of the day in the corner of the Great Hall with Toothless. Everyone was giving them a wide berth, except the guards. Toothless was spending most of his time asleep, healing from the wound. Hiccup would have liked more sleep but his arm hurt too much and the Highlanders were keeping a close watch on the both of them, which made it too hard to rest.
All in all, he just tried to keep a low profile, or as low a profile as he could with a sleeping Night Fury next to him.
Merida and Elinor had come by a few times to make sure he was okay. King Fergus and Lord MacGuffin had been by a few times too. He had spotted three redheaded children that kept looking at them, they had similar wild hair to Merida’s and he wondered if they were related.
Then the Great Hall had filled for dinner, though there was a huge gap between the diners and the dragon.
Merida waved him over for dinner and he found himself sitting across from King Fergus.
Hiccup looked back at Fergus, MacGuffin and his son. He took a sip of his ale; it was fruitier then what they made in Berk, to stall a little bit more. It wasn’t that he couldn’t tell his story but that this audience for once seemed to care about it without already knowing it. He always told everyone else’s story, because he wasn’t all that special. Maybe he could try telling his story from his point of view, instead. He was an outsider here as well, but it seemed safe enough to tell them his story.
“Alright. But a little background first since you haven’t been fighting dragons like we have. There are many kinds of dragons but what you’ve seen is typical of a raid. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be a good Viking and kill a dragon. Killing a dragon gives you status, the bigger and tougher the dragon the more status points you can earn. My father killed a dragon when he was just a kid; he’s killed the most dragons on record. You can get status other ways too, doing your job well, bringing in a good kill hunting or fishing. You can lose status by messing up.”
The men nodded, they understood that, that was standard stuff.
“I pretty much had negative status because I messed up so much. I’ve been hunting dragons for years, killing even a Terrible Terror would mean I was a person and not a child anymore.”
The men exchanged questioning glances.
“A Terror is a small dragon about the size of a dog. Not a big deal by themselves but they come in packs.” Hiccup filled them in.
The men nodded again.
“I was my dream to take down the highest status dragon we knew about, the Night Fury.” He gestured to Toothless who was asleep on the other side of the Great Hall.
“All so I could get enough status to try dating Astrid, the most amazing girl near my age. I wasn’t strong enough to use any of the standard weapons, so I had to build my own. Not all that hard when you are the apprentice to the blacksmith and somewhat smart.”
Merida gave him a look that told him, she thought Hiccup was more then somewhat smart.
“Most messed up. A few damaged the village. None brought down a dragon, though I think I got close. Finally, I created the Mangler after one crazed weekend long building session. It worked too.” Hiccup paused to sip his ale and assess his audience. They were intent and serious, almost solemn. Not the laughter they always gave him in Berk. It was throwing him off balance.
“I did bring down a Night Fury, the first one ever brought down, but no one believed me, since none of my other inventions had ever held a dragon. I searched alone and finally found him. Wrapped up in the bola and totally helpless. It was my dream come true. It was still alive but all I had to do was cut out his heart and take it to my father and he would believe me and all my troubles would be over and I would be able to date Astrid.”
“But you didn’t. Why?” asked Fergus, wanting to know more about the character of this Viking boy.
Hiccup wasn’t looking at them but back at Toothless. “Because I saw in his frightened eyes, the same fear I had. I saw myself.
“So I cut him free, I expected him to fly off. That wasn’t what happened. He pinned me down, I was sure he was going to blast me, but all he did was roar loud enough to make my ears ring for a few days and fly away. The next day in dragon training, I was told that dragons always go for the kill, always, but I wondered, why didn’t the Night Fury. He had me, but didn’t kill me.” Hiccup turned back to the table.
“I found him trapped in a cove, I had damaged his tail and he couldn’t fly anymore. It took time but we became friends. I repaired his tail and we learned how to fly together. The things I learned from Toothless allowed me to excel in dragon training. I was gaining a lot of status by defeating dragons without even killing them, but that was driving Astrid crazy.” Hiccup smiled lopsidedly.
The men chuckled, though MacGuffin’s son, Kevin, just looked around nervously, as Hiccup sipped his ale.
“I won dragon training, and for that, I earned the privilege of killing a Monstrous Nightmare in a cage match. I knew I couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to kill dragons anymore. We’d been hurting each other for so long and I wanted it to stop. I was fully intent on leaving my home forever, but Astrid found me in the cove. She roughed me up for besting her in training. Then Toothless woke up and defended me, but I got them both to calm down. I tried to explain to her, but she didn’t understand and went to tell the others. We chased her down and I wanted to show her that dragons weren’t dangerous, but Toothless had other ideas. He tried to throw her into the ocean, but he stopped when she apologized.”
The other men shared a look. Hiccup just shook his head, and didn’t see Merida looking all offended and jealous.
“Then we shared a magical flight through the clouds and stars, but then Toothless heard the call of the Death and took us to the nest. Where we learned that the dragons are controlled by it and it will eat them if they don’t bring back enough food. It could also smell us. We barely got away. Astrid wanted to tell my father right away, but that would have put Toothless in danger and I didn’t want that. So that night I came up with a new plan.”
Hiccup slung back the rest of his ale.
“I would take the final and show them. I would show them all, the entire village, that dragons were not the danger we always though they were. I almost did too, but Dad freaked out which freaked out the Nightmare, who attacked me. Astrid and Dad tried to save me, but it took Toothless to make the Nightmare back down, but then Dad attacked Toothless and Toothless almost killed Dad. By the time it was all over, Toothless was captured, the location of the dragon’s nest revealed and Dad disowned me as his son and a Viking.”
Hiccup looked away in pain. Merida gasped, as she understood. Fergus gave Kevin a look and Kevin placed a fresh tankard in front of Hiccup. Hiccup was remembering why he never told this story. He took a big gulp of ale to try and do something about the remembering.
“Then Dad emptied the village of anyone who could fight, leaving only about a couple dozen of the young and the aged behind. I watched from the top of the cliff as they took my only friend and sailed off. They were all going to die. I knew that the Death could utterly destroy them and they wouldn’t be able to stop it. There was nothing I could do without Toothless. We were all going to die, the entire tribe. None of the adults would come back and no one was left in the village strong enough to keep the food safe to make it through the winter. No boats to go anywhere else. It was over. All over. Then Astrid was there talking at me. She wanted to know why I did what I did, because I was scared; Toothless was scared, everyone was scared.”
Bleak barely described the pain in Hiccup’s voice. He took another desperate gulp of ale.
“But through all that talking she reminded me that I was the first Viking to ride a dragon. I then had the idea of taking one of the training dragons to go get Toothless, but the rest of the trainees showed up too and we all got on the dragons and went to the nest. We got there just in time to see the Death burst out of the volcano and rout our tribe. I set them to distract the Death until I could free Toothless. We almost drowned but my dad rescued us, both of us. He actually said he was proud of me.”
His smile lit up the room, but his speech was slurred from all the ale.
“Dad’s proud of me. He shaid I wasn’t a Viking. I washn’t his son. But I showed him, rescued him and everyone. He shaid he was sorry. He’s proud to call me son.” Hiccup held up his tankard and the others knocked theirs together with his. Everyone could see just how important that was to the boy. They drained their tankards and Hiccup wiped his mouth and face with the back of his sleeve.
“The Death could fly. It bashed its way through rock, barely slowing down. Toothless and I, we hid in the clouds. Night Furies hide really well. Toothless shot at the wings, making holes. That made it angry. It flamed the whole sky. It got us. The tail I made for Toothless was on fire. It was now or never. We taunted it and dove for the ground. It was angry. It was going to flame us. Toothless shot first. It was on fire on the inside. Then we came out of the clouds. It tried to pull up. Its wings ripped like a hundred sails on a stormy sea. We turned around only a-a few hundred feet from the ground.”
Hiccup was showing with his good hand how they maneuvered.
“It hit the ground and ashpolded. Then we were just trying to out fly the fire. Almost made it. But Toothless’ tail burned away, couldn’t maneuver. Ran into the Death’s tail. Harness broke. Couldn’t hang on. Fell into the flames and darkness. Woke up mush later, at home, with Toothlesh and thish.”
Hiccup propped his prosthetic on the table.
“A fair price. Shoulda died. I should be so dead. Toothless saved me. Then helped me walk again. I went outshide. There were dragons in the village. I was shure I was dead. I was expecting Hel, but it was too beautiful. I doubted Valhalla or Folkvangr would want me, I’m nobody. It seemed so much like home I thought it was Helgafjell.” Hiccup shrugged.
Fergus and the others looked at each other. Why wouldn’t the otherworld want such a great warrior?
“They welcomed me home. They were happy to shee me. Ashtrid hit me for scaring her but she kissed me for everything else.” Hiccup had a goofy smile on his face remembering that.
Then the smile faded. “That night we held the funeral for the dead. So many had died fighting the Death. So many, so many. Coulda been worse. Shoulda been worse. Dad never listened. Shoulda all died. All of uss.”
“Hail the fallen,” intoned Fergus and the others as they drank.
“Hail the fallen.” said Hiccup, taking a gulp of ale.
“I wash a real Viking, though. I shaved them, mosht of them. Proved that I wash a Viking. Ash badash ash they come! Jusht like them. Better! Yeah, better.” announced Hiccup, swinging his tankard around after emptying it.
Hiccup dropped his arm and the tankard make an empty, hollow sound, like a broken heart. “But nobody noticshed, again.” He bowed his head and then he slumped forward.
“A real Viking.” Said Fergus gently. He stood and carried the Viking boy over to the cot next to his sleeping dragon. After covering the boy, he found Merida being comforted by Elinor and the others looking somber. They had breached a barrel of the strong ale, to try and make the Viking drunk, in order to learn who he was, what he knew and what value he might have. What they learned was far, far different then what they had expected.
“Let’s go to bed. Tomorrow might be busy.” Fergus said, his arms hanging by his sides, not really looking at anyone.
Author’s Note: Valhalla and Folkvangr are Viking heavens, half of warriors that fall in battle are chosen by Odin to go to Valhalla and half by Freya to go to Folkvangr. Helgafjell is a mountain paradise afterlife where they would lead lives similar to their living lives with a warm hearth, drinking and talking. Hel is the Viking version of hell for those do died of old age or disease.