The Chief’s Son altered to provide insight into Halvar.
|AN: This is a work of fan fiction based on How to Train Your Dragon. The rights to How to Train Your Dragon remain with Cressida Cowell and Dreamworks. Only the plot and original characters are mine.
I’m sorry, but it’s true.
“Relieve yourself youngster, then come back.” Grateful for the reminder, he hurried to the privy. Ragna knew bladders were treacherous, and a visit from his father made him anxious. He finished and returned, closing the door tight. The housekeeper moved the table aside and left for her errands. Ragna never stayed for his visits with Father, saying it was betwixt them.
The boy scooped up entrails, glum. He tried to please his father, but spilling things was forbidden and the mess at his feet showed he'd fallen short. Stoick’s size and age didn’t matter; much was expected from him, and he must not fail. Failure required his father’s attention. Hearing his father enter, he rose and walked to him, eyes still inspecting the floor. The huge man sat in his chair and acknowledged him; with the table gone, no barriers were between them, and he stood in the empty spot before his father.
The boy heard the disappointment, and waited for the lecture. He hated listening to the lecture—it showed he’d let his father down again. He lifted his head; unable to look his father in the eye, he stared at the thick beard, and prepared himself to listen. Assured of his son’s attention, his-father-the-Chief began.
“I’m unhappy to be here, Stoick. Ye did well until today. Ye know it’s needful to work hard and behave. Ye know the tribe expects ye to be worthy and to obey yer father.” He heard a sigh. “I want to be proud of ye, but ye erred and must tell me the error.” Stoick slumped at the last words; admitting his blunders made them real and hurt Father, and Stoick never wanted to hurt him. He drew a breath and spoke in a clear voice.
“Father, I spilled fish guts. Spilling isna permitted, and I didna obey your command. Because of me, Ragna isna here to tend to the house, and you aren’t in the village to tend Berk.” He swallowed. “Please instruct me, so I may learn and improve.”
The big man’s disappointment turned to sternness. Now Stoick was in front of Father, and Father was impatient with disobedience. “Ye didna heed my order. Ye made a stinking mess on my floor. Ye forced me to leave the village to come here, and the tribe is without their Chief.” He enumerated the offenses; Stoick saw Father’s impatience become anger, and his own trepidation increased as the litany continued. “Ye were willful and foolish and disobedient, lad. Ye must have respect for me and be prepared to serve the tribe. Ye neglected yer duty to me and to Berk.” He bit off each word and Stoick waited for the end of the judgment. “The Hope and Heir to Berk must be strong. Today ye ignored my command and showed weakness. Ye earned correction.”
“Please correct me.” His gut twisted, and he hoped this time would be a pinching; those ended earlier and with less misery than a slapping. Father’s pinches hurt, and left lasting bruises, but might be hidden under his clothes. Slaps left obvious marking, and the tribe would see his disgrace before the day’s end.
He gestured, and Stoick surrendered his arms for the reminders. Father bent back his fingers and twisted his wrists, so he’d pay attention to holding, gripping, and lifting. When he yanked Stoick’s head back, he knew he’d receive a slapping. He tensed, watching the large, calloused hand approach his face. He cried out on the third one, something he hadna done in months. Father administered a total of six sharp blows to his Heir, the most he’d ever given. His anger was past; the final words came next.
“Ye made a mess and I have corrected ye for it. But ye cried out; ‘tis not over, lad.”
He snapped his fingers; the boy hurried to disrobe, and stood exposed, hoping for no further shaming. He was snatched, pinned over a knee, and struck on his backside. He jolted forward, too stunned to cry out. Father held him there as struck repeatedly, using a fierce, precise assault that made his bottom burn. He couldna stop the yelps that escaped him, nor stay still while Father landed blows on his unprotected flesh. Stoick endured—he was a Haddock, and Haddocks are strong—but tears spilled down his bruised face and the pain worsened until he shrieked. Once he heard that, Father stopped.
“That’s a reason to cry out, lad. That’s real hurt. Now ye’ve had one, there'll be others. Ye’re big enough and old enough to last. No more crying out for a simple slapping. Climb down.” Father helped him to stand, and he scrunched in tight, trembling. He couldna stop it. It was shameful he couldna be strong any longer, but Stoick earned a hurt worse than any he’d known. Today was his biggest failure and Father promised more would come.
Father watched him and when Stoick peeked, saw his forehead wrinkled and his eyes bigger than before. He stared while Stoick quivered and cried, before he extended his hand. “‘Tis over, lad. Ye needna shake so.” Stoick stumbled backward and cringed away from Father’s touch. His father looked at him, then his hand, before pulling it back. He spoke as softly as when wee Flint slept in the cradle. “Hush, child. Dinna be scared—I willna strike ye again. I didna mean...” He left the sentence hanging. “Ye are a good lad and I do know that, for true.” Stoick uncurled and when his father didna move, he straightened up. “When the shaking goes, and ye finish cleaning up and put clothes on, ‘twill be over. I will wait with ye.”
He dressed with care and knelt, scraping up offal until his father said, “That’ll do.” He ran outside, the snug leggings compounding the pain, to hide until it was time to go to the Meade Hall for nattmal.*
§ § §
Stoick’s eyes snapped open. He glanced around, recognized his room, and exhaled. The fearful boy of three was gone, but the vivid nightmare made his heart gallop, and he forced himself to relax. He recalled the details of each first twist, pinch, and slap. When Stoick was a toddler, Halvar’s expectations meant no drops or breaks or damage, and the severity of his first spanking remained a humiliating memory. He swung his legs out of bed and grasped the lit candle; going back to sleep was impossible. He rose and eased past the table, then made his way to the steps. Stoick trod on them with care to avoid creaky spots in the wood. He reached the upstairs room and looked inside.
Hiccup’s breathing was quiet and regular. Yesterday, Stoick saw Hiccup spill Ingrida’s clean laundry; his dad insisted he pick it up, help her rewash it, carry it to her house, and apologize. It was an avoidable accident, and Stoick had taken the paper and charcoal from his son, a reprimand to pay attention to other people’s things. His six-year-old bore no marking or injuries from his dad’s hand, nor would he. Never would Stoick call Hiccup a weakling or slap his face or force him to undress. He would not feel Stoick yank and compress his skin, then dig in the his fingernails. He would never hear Stoick brag about how well Hiccup took correction. His son would one day go too far, receive his first spanking, and experience the embarrassment of a sore bottom. Stoick refused to hurt him more severely, or allow his temper to override his sense like Halvar Haddock once had done.
He was not a brute.
Stoick returned to his room. Watching his son’s innocent slumber comforted him. He put the candle on the table and wrote something, as he did each time he confiscated the charcoal and paper. His son knew somewhere his dad left a joke or a squiggle, and he looked for it when his father returned the tools. Halvar refused to forget a transgression, and Stoick used the secret scribble to put it behind them and brighten Hiccup’s smile. In Haddock house, Stoick used rules, not commands; he scolded and handed out additional chores, kept Hiccup inside, and assured his son he loved him. Hiccup broke plates and forgot his manners and grew cranky. He defied Stoick and fought bedtime, interrupted conversations—and loved Stoick back. Hiccup did not know about fearing his father’s moods, or keeping his head down, or hiding his pain. Stoick gave him freedom to be a child. The small boy with the glittering spirit offered him everything he possessed because he loved Dad and would do anything to please him. Stoick now had his son to live up to, and he was barely past Stoick’s knee. He finished the note, writing the runes backward to make Hiccup laugh, before he blew out the candle and returned to bed.
*Nattmal was the final meal of the day, eaten in the evening.
AN: This story has been edited from its original form on March 7, 2020. The edits are to make it align more closely with other work in this timeline. Thank you for reading. As always, reviews are welcome. Whiskers.