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§ § §
Hiccup lay on his stomach, humiliated, his bottom sore from the worst walloping he’d ever known. He just wanted to get away from Snotlout, Ruffnut, and Tuffnut so they couldn’t prank him. They wouldn’t look for him by those trees. He promised his dad he’d stay away from the spot, but he was over there and saw that bird’s nest and disobeyed. He had to climb up there. His dad, Stoick the Vast, Chief of their tribe, had rescued his son, brought him home in the middle of the day, and spanked him.
Hiccup’s feet touched the dirt, and a look at his father told him the ground wasn’t a safe place for him anymore. The village watched as their Chief placed a massive hand behind Hiccup’s back and forced him home, making him run to keep up with his father’s long stride. He tried to explain, but this time, his father wasn’t listening.
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“I shouldn’t have...”
“Are you gonna...”
He huddled against the wall. Stoick’s face was red, and he paced the floor before turning to Hiccup, scowling. His father’s clear, sharp voice filled the house, and Hiccup knew all of Berk heard the blistering words.
“I forbade you from that place.”
“You defied me.”
“Your promise was a lie.”
“You could have died today.”
“I am furious with you.”
The last thing Stoick told him when he did something wrong was, “I know you can do better than this, and, Hiccup, I know you will.” His father never forgot to say them and Hiccup knew once he did, it was done. His dad was disappointed, and he had to be punished—he did extra chores, stayed inside, wrote lines, even got wallopings—but the words would remind Hiccup he could do better. This time, Hiccup’s father said he was furious, and those were the final words.
All the things he said were true. Hiccup said he’d stay away, and he broke his word to his father. Nothing he did today was good or smart or helpful. Everyone knew what happened. The tribe always talked about people; now, every day he’d hear about it, or see people watch him. They’d mutter and point. Other kids would harass him. Because his father was Chief, someone would ask if Stoick could do a good job, because Hiccup disobeyed. To be with his father in the same room, on the same floor, was too hard. Hiding upstairs in his room was better.
The sky was at full dark; he should be asleep, but thoughts chased around in his head. His father loved him, but how long might it take for him to forgive Hiccup? He used to be able to look at his dad after a spanking and have it all behind them; this time, Hiccup ran straight to his room. Guilt felt like a rock in his chest. Even worse, he shamed his father, the Chief.
Hiccup’s mother died when he was small, but Stoick fit into his heart and he fit into Stoick’s. Nobody was better than his dad. He was a hero, big and tough, but he always held Hiccup in his arm and talked to him. He sat Hiccup in his lap when he was afraid, and told him stories to make him feel better. Even when he should be asleep, his father might take him outside and tell him about the stars and show him the constellations. When Hiccup misbehaved or got in trouble, Stoick looked sad, like his son let him down. Now Stoick was furious with him. Hiccup had wrecked something between them and didn’t know how to fix it.
Hiccup waited for the knock. Tonight, Gobber would come over. He was missing an arm and a leg, and his body looked like two crates stacked on one another, but that was part of him being Gobber. He was the blond man’s “wee laddie,” and the only person who could say he was small without hurting Hiccup’s feelings. He smelled like the forge: coal dust and hot metal and sweat. Gobber was his hero, and Hiccup’s favorite person after Stoick. Hiccup couldn’t look at him tonight but he’d wait for Gobber’s arrival, and listen.
Gobber was Stoick’s best friend, and had been since they were his age. They played together, grew up together, and fought beside each other. He was the only person able to mention his mom to Stoick without upsetting him. His dad wasn’t a big talker, but he’d talk to Gobber. On tough days, he’d visit Hiccup’s dad, listen, and try to help. Hiccup knew his dad needed to talk to somebody, and Gobber was his somebody.
He heard voices coming from downstairs and snuck to his bedroom door, opening it a crack. They were discussing him. Hiccup often heard them talk like this; he’d listened in for years, learning a lot they never realized, including a word Gobber thumped him for using. Tonight, he needed to pay attention. If he listened hard, Hiccup might find a way to fix what he broke.
Gobber spoke first. “So, Stoick, about Hiccup...”
“What about him, Gobber?” Stoick sounded weary.
“Well, he climbed up that tree, didn’t he?”
“I know that, Gobber. All of Berk knows that. I imagine the sheep know that by now. Can you get to a point?”
Hiccup opened the door wider and risked peeking out. His father stood by the fire. Hiccup watched the flames dance, and Gobber stepped into his line of vision. “I know you have something to say, Stoick. I’m one of cursed few people who know you’re more than a chief, and the only one you can talk with.” He sounded exasperated.
“I couldn’t believe the boy would behave so, so...foolishly.”
“Stoick, you know he went above foolishness today. The lad didn’t make a mistake. There’s no way he could have climbed that tree starting from the ground. He needed to boost himself higher to reach those branches. He climbed the Abramsson’s roof first, then grabbed the nearest branch.” Gobber’s voice sounded serious and a little rough. “He planned it out, Stoick. Hiccup meant to do that.”
Hiccup cringed. He never told his father how he got that high. Every other time, Stoick required Hiccup to tell him everything, and Hiccup was relieved his dad forgot this time. He didn’t expect Gobber to remind him. Lying to Stoick provided a penalty, and telling the truth today would bring a penalty, too. He anticipated standing before his father, too scared to speak, and making everything so much worse. Please, no, please don’t call me down, Hiccup pleaded silently. Please, Odin, please.
“I know that, Gobber. Do you think I’ve not figured it out? The boy’s strength is in his mind, not his size; he thought himself into that disaster. The tree he got to wasn’t even the one he wanted; he was trying for the one beside it when he slipped.” Stoick paused, then added, “Because there was a hawk’s nest there.”
“Hawks, Stoick? Hiccup’s lucky you rescued him when you did; those birds would have taken chunks out of him before he fell...” Gobber’s voice trailed off.
His father finished the thought. “And landed on the rocks below.”
All Hiccup heard was the crackling of the fire. His father turned to face his friend, the flames illuminating his face. Stoick’s green eyes met Gobber’s blue ones. His dad shook; Gobber stood frozen, and Hiccup felt like something would shatter if he moved. They were both frightened, frightened about him. Gobber and his dad believed Hiccup could have died. Hiccup couldn’t imagine it. He’d always be there with his dad and Gobber. Hiccup tried to picture his huge, brave father all alone and shaking all the time, while Gobber stopped joking and his smile became small. Whatever Hiccup broke today with his dad was little compared to what they’d felt if he died.
Gobber coughed, and his voice broke the heavy gloom. “So, what did you do, Stoick? I know Hiccup must’ve got a walloping for this, at least.” Gobber knew—his dad always told him—but Hiccup’s spanking was too fresh and painful to like hearing this, and his face reddened. “You know you have to tell me. I’m not leaving until you do,” Gobber told him. “Keeping this stuff inside eats you up. What happened?”
“What happened, Gobber?” Hiccup’s dad was angry. “I marched him home, asked no questions, stood over him, and told him everything he’d done wrong. I didn’t sit down with him or let him speak. To answer your other question, I did not wallop the boy, Gobber.”
Hiccup jaw dropped. He was spanked harder than ever today, and Stoick was the one who did it. Any child on Berk would have been, and the Chief’s son was no exception. Hiccup endured spankings; they weren’t pleasant, but a part of life when you got in trouble. His dad, the Chief, denied it happened. The tribe trusted Stoick, and Stoick never lied.
“Ah,” Gobber said, sympathetic.” I thought that might be part of the problem. Today was the day, then. You gave Hiccup his first spanking.”
His first? No, he’d had others. This one was horrible, though.
“Yes, I did, and I hated it.” Hiccup heard unhappiness in his dad’s voice. “He doesn’t know there’s a difference between a walloping and a spanking, and today he felt the difference on his body. I didn’t hurt his pride this time, Gobber, I hurt him. I struck him longer and harder than he’d ever felt, knowing how painful it is. There was no other way, but I can’t feel good about it.”
Oh, thought Hiccup. They’re not the same thing. That’s why it was worse.
“Aye, it’s not a happy moment for either of you. You knew this was coming, and put it off as long as you could, Stoick, but the lad earned the punishment. He’s sore and guilty and embarrassed, but he’s alive. If the pain keeps him that way, I don’t see a problem.” Gobber added reflectively, “I remember my first. I was five and my da decided it was time. Hurts like Hel, that first one.” Gobber looked at Stoick, and asked, “How old were you?”
“I was four. Father had high expectations for the Hope and Heir to Berk. I knew that, but it was hard to take.” Stoick sighed. “He ran straight to his room. Today wore him out. He’ll be asleep now, and ought to feel better in the morning. I did what I could, but there’s no going back; now all his spankings will feel like that.”
“Ah. That’s why you didn’t ask him to tell you all that happened.”
“Oh, Gobber. He’s a terrible liar. Even if I didn’t know what happened, I’d know he was lying. Telling the truth would be just as bad. I’d have to worsen the punishment for him either way. This one time, I’ll spare him, let him think I was too angry to remember.” Stoick poked at the fire. “But not again. He must learn to listen and obey, before he kills himself. If I have to make him miserable to keep him safe, I will. Hiccup’s the best part of my life and the brightest thing on this island, and I refuse to lose him, Gobber.”
Hiccup closed the door and returned to his bed. He heard so much and needed to think about it. His father and Gobber were afraid because of what he’d done, though he only got scraped. Hiccup couldn’t imagine more pain than he already undergone, but his father had gone easy on him. He had been spanked, but got away with not explaining. His dad was the Chief, and the Chief always had to be fair. But for Hiccup, he would pretend not to know, and be unfair. Hiccup had to pretend he didn’t hear the truth, and know he wasn’t really punished yet. Hiccup curled up beneath the fur, exhausted, and closed his eyes. He’d talk to his father in the morning, and figure it out. Not tonight: his brain was too full, and he needed sleep.
§ § §
Stoick woke in the morning to find Hiccup already downstairs. He walked into the great room, where his son stood at the table, waiting for him. Hiccup, he noticed, had combed his hair, washed his face, and put on a newer tunic. He turned to Stoick and said, “Good morning, dad.”
Stoick observed his boy. He wasn’t sure what he expected from Hiccup in the aftermath of yesterday, but it wasn’t this. Well, he’d wait for now and see what happened. “Good morning, Hiccup. Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah, I did. How about you?”
“Not bad, son.” The turmoil from the day before kept him awake for a time, but he wouldn’t mention that. “You’re up early today.”
“If I came downstairs early, I could be ready when you woke up. You usually get me out of bed, and I wanted things to be different today. For you, dad.” He wore a shy smile. “There’s bread and milk and other things on the table. To eat.”
Stoick saw the provisions waiting for him, and spotted a plate and mug at his place. A clean mug, not one from last night’s visit with Gobber. Those were on the shelf; his son had washed them. Hiccup waited, expectant, as his father took it in.
Stoick gave his boy a warm smile. “This is good work, Hiccup. Thank you.” He looked at the boy, then said, “Come sit by me, son, and we can enjoy this together.” Hiccup moved his chair and plate close to Stoick and settled himself on the edge of the seat. They ate, punctuating the stillness with passing plates and pouring milk. Stoick wasn’t one to talk much, and Hiccup was surprisingly quiet today. His boy wore an uncertain expression, different from the helpful lad of ten minutes ago, and Stoick held his peace until Hiccup spoke.
“Yes, Hiccup?” Stoick would let the boy be in charge of this conversation. It was his idea, and the care he’d put into this talk deserved courtesy.
“I have a question. Well, maybe not a question. But...” Hiccup trailed off.
“Tell me what it is, Hiccup, even if you’re not sure what to call it.” Hiccup stared at Stoick’s beard, not his face. His son didn’t want to look him in the eyes, in case something went wrong.
“Well, yesterday. It’s about yesterday.” Hiccup hesitated, struggling to find words. “Yesterday was confusing. A lot happened, and I’m not sure what to do.” He lifted his head, an appeal in his eyes.
“What was confusing, son?” Stoick saw Hiccup seize the question, grateful to have somewhere to begin.
“Lots of things. Not everything; I know it was wrong to get in that tree, and I know you had to punish me. That makes sense. But other things were different, and I didn’t know what would happen. I feel better if I know what’s going to happen.” He peered at Stoick, searching for a reaction. Stoick tossed his son another question.
“Were you afraid?”
His son looked down. “Yes, Dad, I was afraid, really afraid.”
“Were you scared of me, Hiccup? Tell the truth.” Stoick leaned forward and watched his son drop his eyes.
“You were mad, and you’re scary looking when you’re mad. But I wasn’t too frightened of you, Dad.”
That was vague, but not an outright lie, and he wondered if Hiccup wanted him to feel better. Telling your father he’s terrifying—even when it’s true—would have tempted Stoick to find a way out, too.
Hiccup tried again. “You always have things you do when I get in trouble, and you didn’t do any of them. It scared me.” He studied Stoick, then asked, “Do you know what I mean?”
“I think so, son.” Stoick hadn’t realized how all those changes would affect the boy. There was no slow walk home, no waiting until nighttime for his spanking, and no questions to answer or explanations to offer. Hiccup hadn’t sat down with Stoick, but stood there while his father scowled down at him. Too many differences made the day hard to process. “It’s better for you when things stay the same, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, Dad, it’s a lot better. Yesterday...” Hiccup glanced at Stoick, then looked away. “I hated yesterday. Nothing went right. I was stupid and I got scared, and you had to come get me. I wanted to go back and not climb that tree, but I couldn’t. And...it’s not over yet.” His voice became tiny. “I want it to be over.”
Stoick tried another question. Hiccup was agonized, and needed something to hold on to. In a gentle voice, Stoick asked, “What would make it be over, Hiccup?”
“I-I need to do my part to make it over. It won’t be done without my part.” Hiccup had raised his head and looked Stoick steadily in the eye. “I must do this. It’s what’s fair, and just, and right. The Chief must always do what’s fair and just and right.”
“You want me to ask the questions, don’t you?” Stoick was torn. Hiccup would answer him honestly, and he would have to discipline him again, probably with another spanking. He saved Hiccup from that already; now the son was quoting the father to ask for his punishment. There existed only one right response. The Chief knew there was no way out of this.
“Yes, Dad, I want you to ask the questions.”
§ § §
Stoick lifted Hiccup, setting him on the floor. They stood facing one another, and Stoick drew up to his full height before addressing his son. He was committing himself and his son to this, and hoping it worked. If he failed, the outcome could be disastrous, and he prayed for Odin’s wisdom. Stoick knew Hiccup was strong inside, and thought he’d be able to last.
“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the third, of the Haddock line of chieftains, son of Stoick the Vast, Chief of Berk, Hope and Heir to the Hairy Hooligan tribe, you stand accused before your Chief.”
Hiccup's eyes widened; he stared at Stoick, shocked. Stoick looked at Hiccup grimly and the boy saw no sign of his father. He stood before the highest authority on Berk and the opening statement revealed there was no going back.
Hiccup would undergo the Chief’s Trial.
The Chief’s Trial was a method of justice exclusive to Berk. It bypassed all other authority on Berk, allowing the chief alone to dispense justice.It was reserved for particularly thorny problems, unusual situations, and times when standard methods would not work. The process was harsh, because nothing could be held back, and truthfulness was mandated. Swearing to the truth for Chief’s Trial carried an extra measure of weight, and few wanted to be scrutinized that thoroughly. Still, the chief measured the testimony objectively and pronounced a judgment that was fitting. Hiccup had studied Chief’s Trial and now would experience it.
“As Chief, it is my sworn duty to do what is fair and just and right. I dispense justice within this tribe. In the case of the Heir to Berk, I alone decide the consequences. You must accept them without question or complaint. Do you understand, Hiccup Haddock?”
“I understand the terms laid down by the Chief, and shall abide by them,” Hiccup answered formally. He had watched others stand before Stoick, and knew the responses.
Stoick thanked the gods for Hiccup’s intelligence. His son had seen council meetings and common judgments, and knew more words than any child of six should. Lacking that background, this would have been impossible. The format was fixed; it could not be reduced or watered down or rewritten. “You are accused of deliberately disobeying a direct order given by your Chief, and in so doing, risking your life. You have, as Heir to the Chief, threatened the line of succession in Berk with reckless behavior damaging to your tribe. Do you, as Hope and Heir to this tribe, swear to truthfully and completely answer all questions put before you?”
Hiccup’s back straightened. “I so swear,” he whispered.
“I ask you why, on this past Woden’s day,* you chose to disobey the command to avoid climbing trees forbidden to you.” Stoick set his features in a stern expression, and waited for a reply.
“I saw a bird’s nest in a tree forbidden to me, and I wanted to look inside.” Hiccup swallowed, adding, “I wished to see if the nest held eggs or baby birds.”
“Is that the entire answer, Hiccup Haddock, or is your answer incomplete?”
Hiccup hung his head. “My answer is incomplete, Chief Stoick.”
“Lift your head. You are on trial and you must face me at all times. I permit nothing else.” Stoick caught his eyes and held them. Stoick saw Hiccup’s reluctance, but he acknowledged the command and faced Stoick.
“Why did you choose to disobey, Heir to Berk? Complete your answer.”
“I wanted to be high up, above the ground. I wanted to be brave, to be a hero, to explore.” He hesitated. “I don’t like the ground; I wanted to be in the air. I want
to fly, but I can’t. I can climb, so I climbed that tree.”
Revealing that desire cost him, and Stoick saw him fight the urge to lower his eyes. This was harder than the boy expected, but not beyond his strength. “Is your answer complete, Hiccup Haddock, or incomplete?”
“Incomplete, Chief Stoick. My answer is incomplete. I-I have more to say.” Hiccup paused. “I wanted excitement. I also,” he murmured, “wanted to get away from my cousin, Snotlout Jorgensen.” He stared over Stoick’s shoulder, unhappy to admit he would hide from kin and unwilling to face his father about it.
“Face me, Heir to Berk, and do not look away again. That is required of you, and you must obey.”
“Yes, Chief Stoick. I shall face you and not look away. You are my Chief, and I answer to your command.”
Oh, he knew that response, too. Pledging obedience to Chief Stoick was a serious answer. The gravity of his actions was sinking in, and the trial was wearing on him. Chief’s Trial provided no relief, except for the chance to moisten your throat or gather your thoughts. Stoick chose this for Hiccup, aware he’d bear the unwelcome strain of examination. Stoick could not fail his son—the boy needed to atone and there was no higher authority than the Chief. This trial must be fair. His pride in Hiccup’s conduct couldn’t stop him, and neither could the boy’s anguish.
“I ask again, Hiccup Haddock, is your answer complete?”
“My answer is now complete, Chief Stoick.”
“Give the account of your deeds during the events of this last Woden’s day. Be thorough, and leave nothing out.” This was the part his son hated most, and the relentless retelling of even the smallest action would burden him. Hiccup spoke steadily as he responded.
“On this past Woden’s day, I was near a stand of tall trees. I looked at them, and saw a bird’s nest. I thought about how to get to it. The nest was high and the branches were out of my reach.” Hiccup was providing every scrap of information he could. He clung to the formalities, attempting detachment; Stoick knew that wouldn’t last, even if Hiccup didn’t. “I saw the roof of the Abramsson’s house was near to one of the trees, and I checked for watchers. No one saw me. I overturned a bucket, stood on top, and climbed to a barrel. From the barrel I grabbed a shutter, and from the shutter I climbed to the roof of the house.” He stopped for air; Hiccup never offered this much detail before, and his self-control was slipping.
“I stood on the roof’s edge. I then leaped to the tree and caught the nearest branch. The branch was two inches thick.” Hiccup’s face wore an expression of comprehension; it was dawning on him just how he’d imperiled himself. “I moved toward the trunk of the tree, and pulled myself up on the branch. I climbed until I drew close to the next tree. I was high up, and the branches were thinner.” A pause, and a breath. “The next tree held the bird’s nest. I leaned toward it, and my left foot slipped. I fell to a lower branch, but it was weak and did not hold me. I slid down, then grabbed another branch with my right arm and held on. I held onto a knothole with my other hand. I yelled for help. I was stuck with no-no way to get down.” He drew four deep breaths. “People gathered below. Someone brought my father, and he-he carried me down the rest of the way.”
Stoick was shaken by the terse, detailed account and knew for a moment fear flashed in his eyes. Hiccup’s face registered the glimpse of terror before Stoick regained an impassive look on his features. Hiccup now realized how much jeopardy he’d been in. It wasn’t just the branch that broke; every branch in that tree and the next one was dangerous. He could have fallen at any time, and wouldn’t survive a fall from that high up.
Stoick stared at his son and Hiccup looked him in the eyes. He stood erect, his hands by his sides, and focused on the Chief. He was pale, shaken, and horrified. Stoick knew it was sinking in. After ten long seconds, he continued.
“Is this account complete, or does it remain incomplete, Hiccup Haddock?”
“This is a complete account of my actions this past Woden’s day. I did climb trees forbidden to me, disobeying a direct order given by my chief. I foolishly risked my life...” He stopped, unable to continue.
“You stopped at ‘foolishly risked my life.’ Continue from there, Heir to Berk.”
“Foolishly risked my life, endangering myself and acting recklessly more than one time to pursue a selfish goal. I threatened the line of succession on Berk, and gave no thought to the good of my tribe.” Hiccup drew comfort from the formal language, Stoick saw. The words provided a barrier, as if they separated the reality of Hiccup’s actions from the actual trial. “I am guilty on all charges leveled. I, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, of the Haddock line of chieftains, son of Stoick the Vast, Chief of Berk, the Hope and Heir to the Hairy Hooligan tribe, do swear to this testimony.”
“I accept your testimony, Hiccup Haddock, and shall render judgment based upon it. Do you have anything to add to this account?” This question was part of the trial for admitted guilt, and Hiccup was permitted a personal statement.
“I want to say I’m...” He halted, then continued, “I want to say I regret my actions. I regret shaming my Chief and ignoring my responsibility to the tribe. I feel remorse over my actions this past Woden’s day. I regret blackening the Haddock name. I...am sorry.”
“Is your statement complete, Hiccup Haddock, or is it incomplete?”
“My statement is complete, Chief Stoick.” Hiccup remained still, resisting tears; now he would be judged and his sentence delivered. Stoick sought the right judgment. His son and Heir would require a full chastising, equal to the actions committed. The severity must be weighted to punish the boy without damaging him.
“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, Hope and Heir to the Hairy Hooligan tribe, your statement reveals repeated and deliberate disobedience. You have been insubordinate to your Chief and besmirched your family name. The Heir is held to a high standard, and you failed to meet that standard last Woden’s day.”
“Be aware that the tribe will watch you more closely now. You chose disobedience to me, your Chief.” Now Hiccup needs to know his duty, as Stoick had at the same age. “The people expect better from their Heir and will scrutinize your words and actions thoroughly. You will receive more criticism. They may forgive, but they never forget. This is true of all tribal heirs, and not a part of this judgment.”
“No single act of discipline can fulfill this judgment. Your punishment will come in multiple parts. As the Hope and Heir of Berk, you are required to give a full account of your actions to the ruling council. You must face them at all times, speaking clearly, and recount every detail. Any further explanation they ask for must be provided. They deserve to know all that happened, because you are Heir to the tribe. Their trust must be earned, and that is your responsibility.” Hiccup nodded, accepting the sentence.
“Tomorrow you will meet with them. They will hear you speak privately. The meeting will be closed to outsiders, and the questions confined to your actions. No member of the council will mention what was discussed during the meeting. Be aware that the tribe does not need to know your account, and any council member who reveals that information behaves wrongly.” Stoick hoped Hiccup understood the subtext of his remarks. The members of the council were not above discipline for their own behavior. Acknowledging their own failings was also justice. “You are not permitted to speak of any personal or restricted information. No events or conversations in this matter between you, your Chief, or in the council meeting may be relayed to any member of this tribe. These matters are kept private, and any questions presented to you shall remain unanswered.”
“You shall not climb. No tree, bucket, barrel, shutter, rock, or other scalable thing will be allowed to you. This will continue for six weeks.” He’d have to remember to stay on the ground all the time. Hiccup knew this was just, and he had earned the punishment. Stoick, unrelenting, said, “You may climb steps one at a time. You may sit on steps. Any chair or stool with a seat lower than your waist is permitted. Outside of any changes made by your Chief, at all other times, you must sit on the ground or stand. After ten days, you may climb on a chair to eat during mealtimes. At the end of three weeks, I will review your behavior and decide whether you may sit at other times.” Yes, this was going to be horrible. He could sit on the ground he hated or have his legs ache from standing. Again, Hiccup nodded.
“Any task within your ability may be asked of you from the citizens of Berk. If expected to climb, you must explain your prohibition and ask for a different task. If there is no different chore to complete, you are required to return and help that person another time. This shall last four weeks.” The brief look of unhappiness on his face stirred sympathy in Stoick. His boy would have little free time, but he’d sleep well at night.
“When asked about any restriction, you will explain it is part of your discipline. When anyone brings up your wrongdoing or your punishment, you shall accept it without complaint or excuse or escape. Even younger children may remark and remind you. This lasts for three weeks.” Ouch. Stoick knew this would hurt, and was tempted to take it back. But no, he couldn’t falter, though three weeks seemed a mistake. Stop thinking like Hiccup's dad, Stoick, and get back to work. Thor, he'd be glad when this was over. “The Heir must show humility to his tribe, so they know he will accept a judgment against himself. One day, Hiccup Haddock, you will have to provide justice. To be right and just and fair, you must receive it first, even when it seems unfair. Do you understand?”
“I do understand, Chief Stoick.”
Stoick acknowledged his response with a nod, and continued. “You risked falling from a roof. That’s one infraction. You risked falling from a tree. That’s a second infraction. You risked falling when you attempted to grab hold of a nearby tree. That is your third infraction. For each infraction, you shall receive a spanking, spanning three consecutive nights. It will be painful, but you shall bear it until three nights are over.” Stoick never would beat a child, and had no love for the strap, but this was necessary. Hiccup needed this to remember how close he came to dying, and without the spanking, it wouldn’t be over for his son. “Your father will administer these spankings in your home, with no one present. Your first will happen tonight. Each one will erase an infraction and put it behind you. I, Stoick the Vast, Chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe, do order this judgment upon Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, Heir to Berk. This trial is complete.”
Stoick studied his son. The trial was over, and his sentence had been rendered. Hiccup bowed his russet head, no longer required to look at his Chief, submitting to the decision. He had stood before the highest authority on Berk and answered every question. Stoick judged on the basis of the facts presented to him. Hiccup stood trial by the Chief of Berk, not questioning from his father. He would not doubt the verdict’s validity, but surrender to his chastisement with what dignity he possessed. Today he accepted the mantle of Hope and Heir to Berk. The sweetest part of his childhood was over.
§ § §
Hiccup felt the big man sit beside him. He remained in place, unwilling to move. He asked for justice. Justice was given. The Chief had judged the Heir. The trial had ended, and Hiccup wasn’t sure who he was; he wanted to be himself again. The man sitting at the table might not be his father. Right now, he wanted his dad back. He wouldn’t ask, but he needed his dad, and wished he was here.
A large, calloused hand took his, and Hiccup lifted his head, hoping the Chief was gone. A familiar smile came from his dad. He smiled back, relieved. Things were better now that he’d answered the questions. Not finished, but better. Hiccup didn’t have to wait for his dad to ask them, and he didn’t have to dread answering them. Things were almost done.
His dad spoke. “Hiccup.”
A large hand rested on his shoulder. “We can put it behind us now. Yesterday’s over. It’s today now.” His father brushed a hand through his hair and spoke again.
“Today, you stay inside all day by yourself. Beginning now, you are restricted from climbing. Tonight is your first spanking, and tomorrow after the council meeting, the rest of your public punishment begins. The tribe will know they can ask you to work.” His dad pulled Hiccup close and patted his knee.
“Come sit in my lap, Hiccup.”
“I am not permitted to climb...” Hiccup began. His father interrupted him.
“The judgment states that the Chief may make changes. The Chief will allow this change.” His dad smiled and Hiccup knew nothing was broken now; the terrible trial repaired the damage Hiccup caused. He relaxed further. “Also,” his dad said, “Your father would enjoy having you sit up here.”
Hiccup clambered up, spotting the crinkle in his dad’s eyes, happy again. A thought crossed his mind, and there was no holding it in. He grinned at his father and said, “At least while I can.”
Stoick burst out laughing, and said, “Boy, you have...” He paused, chuckling.
“A lot of cheek, Dad?”
His father laughed so hard he cried. Wiping away tears, Stoick gasped, “Oh, son, more than you can imagine.” Then his dad tickled Hiccup; he squirmed wildly, and began giggling.
The last bit of hurt inside dissolved. He did his part and it was complete. He felt light and free, like he could fly, more than he’d ever imagined up in the tallest trees. A large arm embraced him. Hiccup sat in his father’s lap again, and it was all worth it.
*A variation of the name Odin. Wednesday.
§ § §
Hiccup’s father was huge, taller than everybody in the tribe, and wider than most. His dad joked that he was two Hiccups tall and four Hiccups wide. Looking at his dad’s hair and beard was like seeing flames, while Hiccup’s red hair was mixed with brown. Their sizes meant they looked funny together, and people smiled at the sight. Hiccup never cared that he didn’t look like his father. His dad made him happy and kept him safe, and he could never love anyone more; it had always been that way, until today.