Condensed from redacted 3 and 4
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“Son! There’s someone here to meet you.” Stoick’s voice rang through Mead Hall, impossible to ignore, and Hiccup groaned. Berk was hosting the Meathead envoy this week, and he had fantasized about disappearing ever since the man arrived. Tonight his time had run out, and his dad wanted him there to answer their questions. Again.
He and Toothless were halfway to the Chief’s table when he heard “That’s my son, Snorri.” The envoy glanced at him, then did a double take. Stoick was two feet taller than his son, and three times as wide. Gobber leaned forward to confirm his identity, and the man donned a polite, attentive expression. Hiccup granted him points for the quick recovery.
“Son, I would like you to meet Envoy Snorri Haraldsson and his wife Alfdis, here on behalf of Meathead isle.”
They exchanged pleasantries, while Toothless wandered to the other side of the table. He sniffed at Spitelout’s plate, and was cut off.
“Nay, you pushy dragon. I’m not sharing my mackerel; beg from Gobber if you’re that hungry.”
“Sorry, Toothless. I’ve got mutton, and I know ye don’t like it. I’ve not got my hook either,” Gobber lifted his mug prosthetic, “or I’d give a proper scratch.”
Toothless butted his dad’s arm, and Stoick ran his hand over the rough black scales. Okay, in three, two, one....
Toothless turned his gaze to the envoy and tilted his head, then looked at Hiccup.
“Toothless, these are the Haraldssons. They’re visiting for a few days. Envoy and Mrs. Haraldsson, this is my best friend Toothless.” Toothless provided a gummy smile, plopped himself next to Alfdis, and gave her a cheerful warble.
“A Night Fury.” The envoy spoke in a near whisper. “The child of Thor and Hel, and you ride him. Remarkable.” He looked to Stoick. “If we may hear your son’s account, I would be grateful. My Chief thought it was largely rumor, but seeing this—he would desire the entire tale.”
“Of course, Snorri. Mogadon and I have known one another since boyhood, and I’m happy to let him know everything. That’s why my son and heir is here—to recount his exploits for you.”
Stoick was laying it on thick, because of course he was. His dad and Mogadon were friendly rivals about, well, everything. Weapons prowess, beard thickness, mead consumption, they would compete over it. He and Thuggory had bonded over the embarrassment, though they agreed Stoick was marginally worse. The thought dropped into Hiccup’s head like a hot spike through butter.
My son is braver than your son.
No. No, he wasn’t doing this. He hated answering the questions, but did it. He took the comments about his runtiness and continued lack of muscle and laughed it off. People remarked on the worthiness of his battle scar and the sacrifice of his leg. He put up with visitors believing Toothless was a pack animal, a pet, a cripple. He repeatedly relived the most horrible events of his life for a collection of strangers.
All that effort, and Stoick turned it into a prick measuring contest.
“Begin with the raid.”
Stoick’s remark snapped him out of his funk. Hiccup was weary of the regular recitals and torn between the twin desires of pleasing Stoick and saving Thuggory from Mogadon’s disappointment. An idea blossomed in Hiccup’s head, and he smiled.
“You know, I’ve answered questions about this stuff almost since it happened.” Hiccup adopted a relaxed posture. “The questions don’t change much. What was it like meeting Toothless, how did we become friends, when did I build the tailfin are asked all the time. I have those answers down pat.”
Hiccup swept a bow. “Tonight, for our illustrious Meathead guests, I’m offering the entire story. The bits people don’t ask about, details no one else knows, the parts that get left out, available only to you and Chief Mogadon. Some of it even my dad doesn’t know. To give you the extended account, I need the agreement of The-Chief-my-father.”
Spitelout slapped the table and leaned forward. “Your dad doesn’t know the whole thing? I thought nothing happened on this island without him finding out.”
“To be fair, he was with you on a nest hunt, uncle Spite.”
“Well, I’d like to know what your son was up to all those times he skipped work, leaving me to do everything.” Thank you, Gobber.
“Do we have a deal, dad?” Stoick pressed his lips together and nodded.
“Aye, we have a deal. Be thorough; I want to know what has been missing,” he rumbled, “from your account.”
Great.” Hiccup cupped his hands and shouted. “Hey, Astrid.”
“What is it?”
“There’s a free table right here. Come join us.”
“So.” His friends settled at the neighboring table. “I know you can’t get along without help, but why did you drag us over here, cuz? I mean, besides my awesome looks.”
“Envoy Haraldsson and his wife want the whole story to take back to Meathead. You were all there, so you can fill in the blanks.” Hiccup turned back to the Haraldssons. “Oh, and that’s Snotlout Jorgenson, Fishlegs Ingerman, and Astrid Hofferson. Try scratching his forehead; he loves that.” This last remark was directed at Alfdis, who was admiring Toothless. The useless reptile was eating it up.
“Envoy Haraldsson, I can begin at your convenience.” The man, who had been watching his wife pet the dragon’s head, came out of his daze and responded.
“Beginning now is fine, thank you.”
“First, please tell me what parts of the story you know, and who I am in the tale.”
“Who you are?”
“I’ve got a lot of names lately. Hiccup the Hero is the most popular, but there’s a bunch of others. Hiccup the Bold, the Warrior, the Merciful, the Dragon Conqueror—how many are we up to, Fishlegs?”
“Um, my last count had you at seventeen, but the titles only make the list if they’ve been used at least three times. I’m keeping a tally of the others, and adding them when they get enough mentions.”
“Thanks.” He turned back to the envoy. “If you can tell me, it helps with the start point.”
“Hiccup the Dragonlord. Also Merciful and Gifted.”
“Ooh, they’re using gifted. That one’s new.” Hiccup handed his notebook to an enthusiastic Fishlegs, who wrote it down.
“So where does the story begin?” Hiccup noted his father’s wariness, and hoped not to screw up.
“You shot down a cunning, vicious Night Fury with a remarkable device you built to protect your tribe.” Toothless had his chin on Alfdis Haraldsson’s lap, crooning. “The night was as black as pitch and you could not see it...”
“see him, but you tracked it...him across the sky, and your aim was true. You struck the Night Fury and he crashed to the ground.”
“Right. I took out the only dragon who never stole food or killed anyone, but destroyed our catapults to protect the other dragons. The machine I built malfunctioned five minutes before, and it was a miracle when the Mangler worked the way I wanted. I shot him down to convince Dad I could kill a dragon.”
“I still can’t believe you named your machine.” Astrid interrupted. “Don’t forget the rest of the reason.”
“I also wanted to get a date. Preferably with Astrid.” He surprised a laugh out of the envoy. “What came next?”
“You sought out the despicable creature, prepared to slice off his head.”
“I searched Raven Point for hours without finding him. When I did, I was ecstatic, boasting about my heroic self until he moved. Then I was terrified of an immobilized dragon with no hope of escaping. I pulled out this knife,” he yanked it from his belt, “and threatened Toothless. I couldn’t do it, almost left him to starve, then cut him free so he could leave Berk and go back to destroying our catapults.”
“Toothless slammed me against a rock and I thought I was finished. He glared at me, screeched, and flew away. I fainted.” Hiccup waited a moment for envoy Haraldsson to process the details.
“An eating knife?” Alfdis asked. “Why not your sword?”
“This was the only weapon I owned. No swords, no daggers, no staves—I was too puny to train. I’ve grown since then, though.” He paused to let that sink in. “What comes next?”
“You began dragon training under the great warrior Gobber.” Alfdis answered. She was enjoying the explanation, which was better than her husband, who was still coming to grips with Hiccup the Weaponless.
“When I recovered from fainting, I went home and Dad told me I was beginning dragon training. I’d begged for this for years, and he always said no. I didn’t want it anymore and he stuck me in there. Then he left on a search for the nest. That day sucked.” Stoick cleared his throat. “I mean, it went badly.”
“Get to the great and mighty warrior part, lad. You’ve hogged the story enough.”
“Fine, Gobber. I go to training, these guys,” he gestured to the neighboring table, “couldn’t believe the fishbone was there. Gobber said the dragons would attack the others, because they were real Vikings, and I wasn’t.” Gobber had the grace to look embarrassed. “He released the Gronckle, and I almost died from a blast to the head.”
“You didn’t defeat it?”
“No one did. It was our first day and we were pathetic. Astrid was the last one standing.” Astrid waved and the envoy provided a hesitant wave in return. His dad was glaring at Gobber. Oops. Gobber left that Hiccup-nearly-died bit out of his report to Stoick. “Then what?”
“You sought out the dragon.”
“You sought out the dragon.”
“He was trapped in a cove and unable to fish. I ripped off his tail fin and he was alone and starving. What did I do? I drew his picture.”
The entire conversation went that way. He told them everything: showing up late for dinner, nearly getting flattened by an angry Nadder, voluntarily seeking out Toothless with a lone fish, then harassing him until he climbed a tree. His friends added to the story.
“I tried warning him about the Zippleback, and he told me to shut up.”
“I thought he was acting weirder than usual.”
“He started beating us in the ring, and nobody could figure it out. It’s not like he knew how to fight.”
His dad wanted to intervene, but Hiccup made an “I’ve got this” gesture, and Stoick restrained himself.
He covered the inadvertent first flight, cheating his way through training, falling off of Toothless from tens of thousands of feet in the air—his dad looked like his heart would stop at that revelation—and the admiration from the village.
“Dad came home and was thrilled I knew how to defeat dragons. He found me to tell me how proud he was. He was laughing and clapping me on the shoulder, wanting to discuss my techniques. He even gave me a memento of my mother’s—a helmet.” He took a swig of water. “I realized I was trapped.”
“So, I win dragon training. I go to the cove to see Toothless. We’re talking when Astrid finds us. I persuade her to fly with us…”
Astrid shook her head. “Nuh-uh. You’re giving the whole story, Hiccup. If you don’t tell them, I will.”
Hiccup fixed his eyes on the envoy and destroyed every remnant of Hiccup the Hero.
“Killing a dragon is impossible, and the tribe expects me to do it. Gobber and the kids in my class want to see it happen. Dad’s so proud of me, and I’m going to fail them all. So,” his voice echoed through the hall, “I packed my stuff to run away on Toothless.” It came out in a single breath, and was unable to meet Stoick’s eyes. “It was the only way out.”
Hiccup continued until the events of the kill ring. “I went in, knowing I wasn’t going to kill Hookfang, and with the entire tribe watching, tried to make friends with a Monstrous Nightmare. I told everyone that three hundred years of Hooligans fighting the dragons that raided us was wrong, that I knew better. We’d lost homes, body parts, and family members to the dragons, and I was siding with them.” His voice had grown louder, and Mead Hall quieter. Hiccup steeled himself for the next part. “I was standing right in front of Hookfang when he flamed up and attacked me. Astrid rushed in to rescue me, Dad threw open the gate, and I still couldn’t get out of there. Hookfang had me pinned, my entire body caught between two of his claws. I was about to die when Toothless blasted his way in and saved me. Then he was captured.” Hiccup shuddered. Gods, that day was horrible. Toothless gone, disowned by his dad, and Hiccup couldn’t convince him to stay on Berk.
“That was the day I committed treason.”
His words carried throughout the room. The Chief’s table was silent and all he could hear were murmurs. So many were listening to his account and remembering how they despised him for the betrayal. How Stoick focused on the trip to the nest and they knew Hiccup had turned traitor and abandoned everything they stood for. That Night Fury was the key to finding and destroying the nest, and Hiccup kept it a secret to save the black demon that ruined their village. A few remembered seeing him at the docks, watching them load the longboats and daring to look at his father. They wanted him disowned and banished and executed, to erase the blot on Berk.
A minute later, in a low tone, Hiccup resumed the story. “I’d never seen my father so angry. He blamed himself for not knowing, and realized I’d deceived the Hooligan tribe, deceived him. I stood there pleading for the protection of my Night Fury best friend. I argued that we weren’t any better than the dragons were, because we killed them. Then I told him I found the dragon nest.” He ran his hand down his face. This had begun as a joke, a way to rant about being called a hero and show how much he hated telling his story to people, but now he was on a dark thread and couldn’t make light of it. “He thought I could take him there, and I told him no, it took a dragon to find the island. I couldn’t convince him of the danger. He wasn’t going to listen to me. Why should he? I lied and tricked and cheated my way to where I was, then betrayed him. He had no reason to trust me. He turned his back and left.” He forced himself to look at Stoick. Hiccup had never put any of this into words, and Stoick’s gaze was full of regret, a regret that mirrored his own. He offered his father the tiniest of nods—he would not mention the deserved disownment.
“I heard my dad call for the ships to be readied. I watched from the docks as Berk’s armada and every siege weapon the tribe possessed was loaded to find the island. I saw Toothless chained and put aboard the flagship with my dad. I watched the fleet sail away, and knew I’d doomed my uncle, Gobber, my father, and my best friend to die.”
“I stood there and Astrid found me, dragged me out of my guilt, and forced me to do something. I ran to the arena. I had about ten percent of a plan...”
Snotlout snorted. “In your dreams. You had maybe five percent of a plan.”
“Thanks for the support.” Hiccup used a dry tone, and Gobber chuckled.
“Aye, well, he’s not wrong, Hiccup.” Hiccup rolled his eyes, and Snorri Haraldsson offered a small smile.
“Okay, I had almost no plan. I was going to steal a dragon, fly to the island, and hope I figured something out on the way. I’m about to open the cage with the Nightmare and hope it won’t kill me this time, when they,” he gestured to the other table, “walk in and save me from my own stupidity. I let the dragons out, paired everyone up, gave a quick lesson on staying on, and we flew off together.” Fishlegs returned the journal. Hiccup flipped it open to the pages containing a sketch of the Red Death and all its characteristics. He passed it to the envoy.
Hiccup gestured to the other table. “They wanted me to lead them. They came to me and asked to follow the traitor who doomed our parents to die. I don’t think I’ll ever be over that.” Hiccup closed his eyes, remembering.
“We found the island. It was chaos. People were running for safety, led by my uncle. My father and Gobber stood on the beach and taunted that thing, trying to protect the rest of the Hooligans. It was suicide, and if it hadn’t been for Astrid’s dragon, they’d have died. Even that monster took notice of a magnesium blast.” He saw a hint of satisfaction on Astrid’s face—Stormfly was fierce, even for a Nadder.
“Astrid helped me find Toothless. Fishlegs gave a breakdown of the Red Death’s weaknesses, then he and Snotlout distracted it. The Thorston twins flew past its nostril and antagonized that thing into firing at them. Astrid was helping them distract and weaken it. I was trying to free Toothless, getting nowhere, when the ship we were in was smashed, and he sank into the water. I swim down and try to free him, fail, and almost drown when Dad rescues me. He dives back down to free the dragon who corrupted his son and led raids on his tribe, and they both come flying out of the water. Toothless dumps him and orders me to climb on and fight. My dad,” he spoke through the lump in his throat, “told me he was proud I was his son.”
“Toothless and I climbed into the sky. Nothing is faster or more agile than a Night Fury, and Toothless fought that thing. I was on his back, but he did most of the work. He detonated that monster with its own gases, then dove into the fire to save me when I fell. He’s the reason I’m alive.” Toothless came to him, crooning, and Hiccup reached out to scratch his buddy.
“I wake up from my coma. Toothless is inside my house, I’m wearing a prosthetic, and when I go outside, my cousin is flying Hookfang and giving riding lessons. I slept through all of it.”
“The village is full of dragons and my dad is happy about it. Everyone comes running to greet me. A Terrible Terror is riding on Uncle Spite. That was surreal.” Spitelout gave a bark of laughter, and there were assorted chuckles.
“Everything destroyed when Toothless and I crashed had been replaced. Gobber built a new saddle and tail rig, and designed it to fit my prosthetic. He handed it all to me and said ‘Welcome home.’”
“And, um,” Hiccup flushed, “that was it, really.”
“You’re leaving out the best bit, laddie.”
“Finish the story, son. The Haraldssons need to hear it all.”
Toothless shoved Hiccup closer to Astrid and Hiccup shot him a look of betrayal.
“Thanks for nothing. You’re not getting salmon for a week.” Toothless laughed, and the room laughed with him.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Okay, Astrid hit me. Oww. Just like that,” he said, rubbing his arm and scowling at her. “I asked her if she was always like this, because...” He hesitated. Astrid grabbed him by his vest, dragged him forward, and kissed him. He heard laughter and catcalls, but his mind was on her. Another kiss from Astrid. On his lips. Was this one longer? It felt longer—not that he was in a hurry.
She released him, and he said, “I could get used to it.”
“He was useless at the forge for three days after that kiss. He’s probably going to be worse this time, you know.” Gobber pointed at Astrid. “If you don’t stop breaking my apprentice, I’ll make you do the sharpening and polishing.” He halted, then said, “Nah, I’d never get any work out of him with you there.”
“My son looked like that after the first kiss, too.” Gods, the whole room was watching. Okay, all he needed to do was finish.
“So, I saddled Toothless and we went flying with Astrid, Stormfly, and the others.”
“So now you know. I’m not Hiccup the Hero. I was a fraud who got caught. Everyone on that island was a bigger hero than I was. Everyone on dragonback was greater than I was. The dragons were fighters and Toothless was fearless. Compared to them, I was barely there.”
“That is the full, true tale.”