~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 08 : Flying
“So what was your first flight like?” asked Merida casually, as she and Hiccup sat down near the fire, watching Toothless curl up for a nap. The thought of riding a dragon was so very interesting.
Toothless could fully extend his wings now. They were settling down after taking him outside to flap his wings to stretch them out. He had thrown up quite the flurry of snow from the snowstorm the previous day. It was getting a little bit warmer; at least it was warm enough to snow now.
Merida was unprepared for the reaction she got from Hiccup’s face. He smiled, not just a little awkward smile but a real all the way to the eyes smile. She knew she was seeing the real Hiccup, like when she had seen her real mum in her room just before the introduction of the suitors.
“It was amazing. Our first flight didn’t go so well, because I hadn’t figured everything out yet, hardly anything actually. I had created a new tail for him. It fit, though there was no way to control it yet, but Toothless didn’t know that and took off anyway, with me hanging on to his tail for dear life. We almost crashed but I opened the tail and he took off into the sky. It was working, it was scary but it was also wonderful. The view was incredible and the feel of the wind was awe-inspiring. I figured out I could steer from back there and we crashed into the lake but it was wonderful. It took me a couple of weeks to work out all the kinks in the flight system. We flew tethered and stayed low, usually over water so we could crash safely.
“I was doing dragon training in the morning and the smithy in the afternoon and Toothless in the evening. I was exhausted but it was wonderful. Things were finally feeling right and good. Finally, everything seemed to be working right and it was time for the big test. We were able to take off and climb, turn and dive. I wasn’t so good about avoiding obstacles at first. I was still getting a handle on the different positions. Mainly I think was so busy second-guessing myself. Then I wanted to see how high we could fly, which is really high, but then I lost my cheat-sheet, and I fell off Toothless. We were falling and spinning. I knew we had to get back together. I stabilized myself but Toothless slapped me with his tail. We were running out of sky but we got ourselves under control and I was able to get back on Toothless.
“I buckled in but we were going really fast. I hauled back on the harness and we were slowing, but not fast enough. We were flying between the trees; I was hoping to make it to the water but then out of the fog rocks appeared. I had my cheat-sheet but there was no time. I-we had to fly or die. I tossed the cheat-sheet and we flew, really flew together. We dodged left and right and even barrel-rolled around a rock. Finally, we were clear of the rocks and we were flying under our own power. We were alive. We had done it. I let out a yawp because it was the greatest thing I had ever done. Toothless then shot out a burst of flame and we flew through it. It singed me a bit. Toothless dove into the ocean and cooled me off, but also grabbed some fish. We settled in a cove on the far side of the island and had dinner. I learned there with some Terrible Terrors that everything we knew about dragons...was wrong.”
Merida was gazing in wonder at the boy. He was so animated and intense. She knew she was seeing the real him, like her mum. He was so closed off so much of the time. She knew from what he had said so far that he was bullied much of his life but his shell had openings in it and she wanted him to be free and himself. Like she and her mum had become.
“Did you tell any one about that flight?” asked Merida.
Hiccup’s face went from the bright love of flying to a neutral grey that seemed to be his normal face. “No. No, I haven’t. I don’t think anyone would believe me.”
“I believe you.” Merida said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Do you go flying often?” Asked Merida, trying to make Hiccup happy again, he was so ...alive when he talked about flying.
Hiccup smiled again. “Every day the weather is good enough. Flying in rain or snow is not fun at all. Really dangerous too, because you can’t really see where you are going. Flying is no fun when the clouds have rocks in them.” Hiccup gave Merida an easy, wry smile.
“No, I wouldn’t think so. So, what do you do when you fly? When I go out on Angus I go through my shooting course and see some of the great views we have around us.”
“Sometimes we just fly around and look for interesting places, but usually we work on doing tricks.”
“Tricks?” Merida asked.
“Yeah, like our latest one has me jumping off of Toothless’ back over an arch and back into the saddle. That was a tough one to get right, I tumbled a bunch of times, but the ocean is kinda soft to land in. Sometimes we would fly as high as we can I would dive off and we would free-fall together. Toothless likes to spin me when we do that.” Hiccup had a gentle smile on his face.
“So, do you do those tricks in front of your tribe?”
“Oh no, it’s too dangerous for them. Well, some of the simpler ones, Astrid and the twins love to come up with new tricks, but I try not to show off too much. Though, I make sure to keep pushing them so they learn how to really fly their dragons.” He shared a smile with her about that.
“What’s your home like?” asked Merida.
Hiccup exhaled slowly. “Berk. It's twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It's located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunsets. It snows nine months of the year and hails the other three. Any food that grows there is tough and tasteless. The people that grow there are even more so. We’ve lived there for 300 years, fighting dragons. The forest is quite extensive which is a good thing since the dragons tended to destroy a few houses each raid. Now it seems like they will last a while.” Hiccup chuckled.
“Did you have any friends there?” Merida asked.
Hiccup became somber. “Friends? That’s a good question. Most people tried to ignore me. Plenty bullied me. Gobber was nice to me; he believed in me, sort of, taught me things. Astrid was in the ignore camp, so was Fishlegs. Astrid only started beating me up when I was a problem in dragon training, she cared about what I was doing.
“Once you had Toothless, why didn’t you leave?”
Hiccup gave an empty, joyless laugh. “Oh, I tried. I was all packed and ready to go. But Astrid followed me to the cove where I was keeping Toothless. She was roughing me up a little, trying to get me to tell her how I was suddenly so great at dragon fighting. Then Toothless and Astrid found out about each other. They were both trying to save me from each other. It was pretty crazy there for a second as I tried to keep them from killing each other. Then Astrid ran off to tell everyone. We chased her down and he picked her up and dropped her in a tree. I wanted to show her how wonderful it was to ride a dragon, but Toothless was still angry with her and dove into the ocean instead.
“He pulled some spinning maneuvers that almost made me retch. When Astrid apologized, he calmed right down, and we ended up having a wonderful ride through the clouds, but then we got caught in a dragon raid bringing in their kill and we found the nest and the Red Death. Now we knew where to go, but the Red Death was so big I knew the whole tribe together wasn’t strong enough to kill it. Astrid wanted to tell my dad but I knew he’d just want to raid the nest. I was awake all night trying to find another option.
“I figured the best plan was to show the whole village at my final exam that we didn’t need to kill dragons. If we befriended the dragons, they would stay with us and we could starve out the Red Death. At the very least, if the dragons were on our side we had a better chance of defeating the Red Death. Astrid was surprised that I would put the life of Toothless before the location of the nest. She respected that. She punched me for kidnapping her, but she kissed me for everything else.”
Hiccup licked his lips and shook his head remembering that.
“But then you dad freaked out and you ended up fighting the Red Death all by yourself with Toothless.”
“Merida, how do you shoot a bow like you do?” asked Hiccup. He was curious and now that he wasn’t a prisoner and had a bit of a relationship with her, he thought to risk the question.
Merida sighed. “I can’t tell you.”
“I understand. Some things have to be secret.”
Merida gave Hiccup a look. “Actually, I just don’t know how we do it.”
“You don’t know.” Hiccup was surprised, how could you not know how you do something.
“I’m not sure. For my mum and me, we go all calm inside and are some how able to shoot better and stronger then anyone else. We’ve tried teaching others but there hasn’t been much success. It sounds like you have far better luck teaching others how to train a dragon.”
“Well, sort of. It isn’t that the others don’t do well with their dragons, but some people, like my dad, can’t seem to get it. He can ride a dragon but he just doesn’t connect to them like I do. The twins seem to be the best at it, and I wonder if it is because they are twins.” Hiccup spoke quietly to contemplate that idea.
“Lunch time,” called a servant, that saw them.
Merida and Hiccup got up and walked back.
# # #
“Ready buddy?” asked Hiccup as he looked over the meadow and lake below the castle. The DunBrochs and the MacGuffins were nearby and many people were looking over the walls of the castle.
Toothless growled in agreement. It had been weeks now since he had been injured but the pain was gone and his wing could move freely now. He was eager to return to the sky.
Hiccup wasn’t wild about the audience but there was nothing to do about it. He climbed onto the saddle, buckled in and said, “Let’s keep this easy, just to see how you are feeling.”
Toothless nodded, and then leapt off the high ground they were on and glided down the meadow. A few wing beats and they were able to clear the trees. It took longer then a vertical climb but they were now hundreds of feet above the castle, alone and free.
Toothless barked, and Hiccup replied, “Yeah, I’ve missed this too.”
Hiccup turned in the saddle, pulled off his mitten and ran his hand over the wound site. He could feel a little stress around where the arrow had come out.
“Good job, buddy. Let’s go back.” Hiccup said but Toothless shook his head and turned toward a large mountain.
“What’s up?” Hiccup asked, he looked around worried about that Death calling Toothless. Then as Toothless soared along the tree line Hiccup heard a sound from behind him, he turned and saw a long deposit being left on the mountain.
“Oh, yeah. You’ve been holding it for a while, haven’t you? Feeling better?” asked Hiccup as the sounds stopped. Toothless made happy warbles as they soared back to the castle and Toothless spiraled down to the meadow. Hiccup slid off his friend and began massaging around the scars. He wasn’t really strong enough to do much, but it felt a little good to Toothless.
“Oh Hiccup. That looked amazing!” shouted Merida running through the snow to the pair.
“Yes, it is. We’ll need to build up his strength a little more each day, but he should be fine. Would you like a ride when he’s stronger?”
“Oh, really? I’d love to.” Merida said excitedly.
“Sure. The least we can do, for a friend.” Said Hiccup, glad to see Merida so happy.
Merida sobered, “Thank you Hiccup, I know that friendship means a lot to you. Thank you.”
Hiccup blushed a little as he focused on his dragon.
# # #
“Are you ready?” asked Hiccup.
“I guess so. This belt is really snug.” said Merida. She was belted in behind Hiccup, preparing for flight. Hiccup and Toothless had spent some time every day flying and building up strength and Toothless had recovered quickly. Hiccup had invited her along for this flight.
“Merida, don’t forget your bow!” called Elinor coming through the castle gate.
“Is that alright? It’s not very heavy,” asked Merida.
“Nah, that should be no trouble,” said Hiccup.
“Why should I take my bow?” asked Merida of her Mum as she handed up the bow and quiver.
“Just in case you run into any dragons, dear. We are at war and it is best if you are armed.” said Elinor.
“Thanks, mum.” said Merida as she slipped the bow and quiver over her shoulder.
“Let’s go buddy.” Hiccup said to Toothless.
Merida felt the dragon crouch, gave a little butt wiggle and then they leapt into the sky. They quickly climbed hundreds then thousands of feet into the air. Merida’s heart was pounding from the exhilaration of the takeoff as she gripped Hiccup around the waist. Then Toothless leveled out.
“Show off,” complained Hiccup but without any heat.
It was windy and icy cold up here, and Merida could barely see the tiny figures of the people in front of MacGuffin’s castle.
“Uh-oh. That will be a problem later,” said Hiccup.
“What?” asked Merida, looking around.
Hiccup pointed. “That’s a blizzard and it will be here in a couple of hours, if I don’t miss my guess.”
Merida could only agree. A towering wall of bright white clouds with dark undersides and snow was coming their way. They had not been able to see it from the castle because of the mountains.
“Could you fly over that?” asked Merida.
“No, we are near the top of how high Toothless can fly already, besides flying through snow is not fun.”
“Should we go back?” asked Merida.
“Yes, but it doesn’t have to be immediately. I want to fly to the coast to scope things out. There is supposed to be an island off the coast that I think may be a possible nest site.”
They flew on, and Toothless would skim past the occasional cloud, which delighted the redhead as she reached out and touched it.
“Ah, I see where we’re going, that’s the Isle of Sky. That is a very pretty place. They have a place called fairy pools there. I so want to go there and see them, someday.”
“Fairy pools?” asked Hiccup.
“I’m pretty sure that is only a description of how beautiful they are and they don’t actually have fairies there.” Merida said doubtfully.
“How sure, considering you are riding a dragon?”
“Um, maybe they are just will o’ the wisps. I’ve met them before, they lead you to your fate, but yeah, we might not want to get too close.”
“Right.” Hiccup nodded.
“Oh, it couldn’t be this easy,” said Hiccup as they reached the coast after several minutes flight.
“What?” asked Merida, from behind the young Viking.
“See that island over there, with the dark patch on the side of the mountain?” Hiccup pointed.
“It’s the right size for a Death to get through.” Hiccup looked over his shoulder. The blizzard was getting closer, “We can make a pass to check, and then head back to plan a proper assault. With Toothless feeling better I can head back home and get the tribe to help take her down.”
“Sounds like a plan.” agreed the Scottish princess.
They come in low skimming the waves of the ice-cold sea, the spray like needles in their faces.
“I can’t see anything,” said Merida.
“Toothless. Light it up.” said Hiccup decisively.
The great black dragon let loose a bolt of blue flame.
The sides of the cave were covered with dragons.
“This is the nest. Okay buddy, let’s get back to the castle and tell everyone.” Hiccup called and they banked right.
There was a muffled detonation.
The dragons began pouring out of the cave as a vast roar filled the air.
“Oh, man.” said Hiccup quietly and nervously.
“What?” asked Merida feeling scared, that roar had been huge.
“I think we got her angry.”
A massive dragon came dashing out of the cave.
“That’s a really big dragon.” Merida whispered.
She roared again as she saw them.
“Oh yeah. She’s angry.” Hiccup urged Toothless higher. He took a good look at the Death. It was different from the one he had fought; the scales had a distinctive green coloring to them. He was beginning to refer to it as the Green Death in his mind. Hiccup made a mental note to put that in his notebook for updating the Dragon Manual.
“So now what do we do?” asked Merida as the giant dragon spread its wings and took off after them.
“Um,” said Hiccup as he looked around.
“Fly steady for a minute, I’m going to turn around so I can shoot at her.”
“What?” shouted Hiccup as he felt Merida undo her safety belt, turn around and then buckle it back on. “Do you actually think your arrows are going to do anything against that?”
“Do you have a better idea yet?”
Toothless growled a comment. “No kidding, buddy. Why are all girls so crazy?”
“Does she have any weaknesses I can exploit?” Merida called as she fitted an arrow to her bow. She began to take deep slow breaths. Breathes that filled her core. Breathes that felt like they were filling her body from shoulder to buttock. A deep calmness wrapped itself around her like floating in a pond on a warm summer’s day, as they were buffeted by the cold winds running before the blizzard.
“It has six eyes each as big as I am, so it doesn’t have much of a blind-spot. It has big nostrils so it relies on hearing and smell. The wings are huge and fragile, but we would have to get closer for Toothless to take shots, but there is nowhere to hide....” Hiccup looked at the oncoming blizzard. Then back at the huge Death climbing quickly toward them.
“Okay, here’s the plan. We’re going to hide in the blizzard and fight it there.”
“Fight in a blizzard? You said flying in a blizzard is too dangerous.”
“It is but do you got a better idea?”
“No,” said Merida calmly. “I can try shooting it and hopefully make it angrier.”
“Good thinking.” Hiccup wasn’t exactly sure that making the Green Death angrier was all that great of an idea but it was something, besides she could never hit it.
He heard the twang of Merida’s bow and after several long seconds as they fought their way through the winds, a roar.
“You hit it!?”
“Of course,” came the unnervingly calm reply.
Merida loosed several arrows in quick succession, each causing a roar from the giant beast.
“Hang on, it’s going to flame!” shouted Hiccup as they took evasive action. They wove around the dirty orange flames, but it was at the edge of her range and they were able to stay unburned.
“I’m out of arrows, I’m going to turn again.”
“Hurry up, we are almost to the blizzard!” shouted Hiccup over the winds but he felt her arms around his waist.
Then they drove into the blizzard.
The howling winds of the blizzard began to pummel them. Hiccup tried to have Toothless climb a little and jinxed around trying to be somewhere other then where they had been heading to try to outsmart the Green Death, but the blizzard was buffeting them around anyway.
“Do you see anything?” called Hiccup.
“Wing!” shouted Merida. One of the great wings beat down just behind them. Toothless got off a shot that tagged the side of the beast, and they heard the rush of wind as they were barely missed being bashed by the heavy tail.
Then there was nothing but the swirling snow and howling winds of the blizzard’s fury.
Several pounding heartbeats passed, and then they were just above the monster’s rear quarter. Toothless got off another shot, and they were dodging steaming flames. The heavy snows of the blizzard absorbed the sooty flames. Then it was nothing but whiteness again. Hiccup was beginning to get worried as he knocked some of the ice off his gear. The tail was getting sluggish. They were all becoming covered in ice.
“Merida, we can’t keep this up much longer. We’re beginning to ice up. We’re going to fall out of the sky before too long.”
Merida opened her mouth to reply, but just then, the massive jaws of the Green Death appeared out of the heavy snow.
“Duck!” Merida screamed.
Toothless folded his wings and they dropped from the sky. The dragon-length teeth came together just feet from them, the heavy chomp reverberating in their bones.
They were all diving straight down. The only thing driving them was the pull of gravity. The Green Death roared its frustration, they could see it’s vast outline close behind them in the heavy snow.
“Merida. Thank you.” called Hiccup over the wind as the snowflakes raked his face.
“For helping me open my heart.”
“Oh. You’re welcome. We’re going to find the ground the hard way, aren’t we?”
“Yeah. Sorry.” He didn’t want things to end like this for Merida. He wondered if Odin or Freya would take a Scottish warrior in.
“No. It’s okay. It’s the right thing to do. Thank you for helping me save my people.” Merida squeezed him around the middle.
A small blue creature appeared, flying along before them.
“Will ‘o the wisp! Toothless, follow them!” Merida shouted.
A long line of wisps appeared and curved down and off at an angle. Toothless rolled and followed, they could still hear the Green Death roaring behind them. They could feel themselves pulling out of the dive. Trees began to whip past them, the wisps a curve in front of them.
They barely cleared a jutting prominence following the wisps. The heavier Death came out of the dive slightly lower. The sharp rock caught the Death and ripped open its belly.
The massive crunching sound overtook them as the Death’s ribs were shattered as the rock gutted it. The explosion came from behind them as the white snowstorm turned bright orange and yellow. The wisps led them over a ridge and down into a ravine that was clear enough to see in. The blast rolled over the ravine. Dislodged trees flew through the air that they had to dodge but in moments, it was clear again.
“We’re alive. We made.” shouted Merida.
“Yeah!” yelled Hiccup raising his arms.
Toothless let out a blast of celabratory flame.