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Rated: ASR · Draft · Fanfiction · #2210909
Draft four of The Race



Coal dust tickled her nose and Astrid sneezed. Gobber told Astrid to get inside the forge and she’d done it. It was odd, but she didn’t question him. Now he and her dad were gabbing, and she had no idea why she was there. Astrid hoped she was getting a weapon. She wanted an axe of her own; she was ten and it wasn’t impossible. Improbable, but not impossible.

Hiccup glanced at her and said, “Wait a minute,” then disappeared into a small room. While she waited, Astrid got a good look at him. He had grown and had gaps in his smile, but remained a twig with way too much hair. He was rummaging through shelves when he stumbled and banged his knee on the corner of a crate. A frustrated “Ow” followed a grimace, and Astrid shook her head—Hiccup was older, but exactly the same as when he started at the forge. Astrid abandoned him to his search and examined the smithy.

Away from the hatch it was dim, within the only real light coming from the forge and a large oven. The surfaces wore a fine layer of grit, and the acrid smell of coal hung in the air. Maces hung from the ceiling, several barrels held spears and staves, and custom-made racks supported hammers and axes. Sharpened blades—longswords, short swords, and daggers—surrounded her, while bows occupied the walls.

Astrid had never seen such a lethal room in her life.

Hiccup job was here. He worked for hours around scores of weapons, an apprentice in the most deadly place she could imagine, and was still breathing. He never trained with a sword, or staff, or even a shield, but he spent most of his time in an area full of potential death. She could defeat him in any combat, but he handled things that could kill him and none of it bothered him. He had changed.

In the smithy, Hiccup was confident.

“Astrid.” She startled; he had returned while she studied the forge and held out an apron. “Put this on.” When she didn’t move, Hiccup gestured to the battered one he wore.“You have to wear an apron here. It’s one of the rules for being inside the forge.” She accepted the explanation and the garment; she tied it on, only to have him undo the knot and adjust it to to his satisfaction. “There. That’s secure.” Hiccup pointed to a corner. “I put your stool there. It’s the safest place here, so you can watch things without getting hurt or having to stand.” She seated herself; he looked determined, and she hadn’t won the apron argument.

“Are you done bossing me around?” She teased him, and he flushed, then stuttered.

“I-I don’t want you to get hurt. I know you’d never be-be careless, but it can be dangerous if, um, you’re not used to it. Besides, this stool-in-the-corner thing is Gobber’s idea, not mine.” Yep, this was the Hiccup she remembered.

“Fine, I won’t bug you about it. Don’t get pushy, though—I’m good at fighting and this place is full of weapons.”

“Okay, okay.” He paused. “So, why are you here?”

Good question. “I don’t know. Gobber told me to come in.”

“What does your dad need from Gobber?”

“I don’t know that, either. He didn’t tell me.” She checked on her dad and noticed Gobber handing him a tankard. Oh, great.

“It doesn’t look like they’re done. Gobber can talk all morning and he’s brought out the mead. It looks like we both get to do nothing.”

“You’re okay to work by yourself, right? To sharpen stuff and do, I dunno, chores?”

“Nope. Gobber told me to stop what I was doing. Until he tells me ‘back ta work, laddie,’ I have to wait around.”

“Oh.” It was a good Gobber impression; for a walking freckle, Hiccup was funny. “Can’t you do anything?”

“I drew water, brought coal, hung up Gobber’s hands, straightened the weapons, and checked the scrap stockpile. I’m out of chores.” He lowered his voice. “Watch. Once he stops talking to your dad, Gobber will say, ‘Hiccup, why aren’t ye working? Ye’re not here to take up space. Get going.’ Then he mutters about irresponsible apprentices not getting the job done.”

“Does he tell you the same stuff over and over?” Astrid’s mother did that all the time.

“Oh, yeah. It’s never anything good, either. ‘Ye took long enough. Get moving, the day doesn’t last forever.’”

“Does he say it when he doesn’t need to?”

“Yeah, like I’m gonna forget things he’s told me for years.”

“I get it. My mom does the same thing. It’s like an occasional ‘good job’ kills her. Instead, I get ‘Take some notice.’ That’s fun to hear.”

“Gobber has a lot of those sayings. What about your mom?”

“She’s got a ton. It’s like she doesn’t know any other words.”

“I guarantee you, Gobber has more of those phrases than anyone on the island.”

“Not more than my mom. Freya’s cats, it’s annoying.”

“Prove it.” His eyes had lit up.

“Huh?”

“‘Pay attention to yer work.’” Aha. Game on, Hiccup.

“‘Heed me, Astrid.’”

“‘Ye need to listen.’”

“‘Concentrate, child.’” She sped up the answers, daring him. No tripping on the words.

“‘Focus, Hiccup.’”

“‘Don’t dawdle.’”

“‘Get yer head out of the clouds.’” He gave her a cocky grin.

“‘Mind on the task.’”

“‘Stop yakking.’” He deepened the accent, and she knew if she laughed, he won.

“‘Daughter, sit still.”

“‘They’re weapons, not toys.’”

“‘You’re too impatient.”

“‘None of your foolishness.’” He hadn’t tripped over a single syllable.

“‘You know better.’”

“‘Yer mind wandered off.’” He thrust out his chin.

“‘Ridiculous girl.” I’m winning this thing.

“‘Why did I take ye on?’” Hiccup looked upward and rolled his eyes.

“‘What were you thinking?’” She crossed her arms and looked exasperated.

“Ye’re not even trying.’”

“‘Have some sense.’”

“Try not to kill yerself.’” They’d slowed down to catch breath.

“‘Are you aware of anything?’” She was out and he knew it. Well, Hiccup?

He hesitated, adopted an annoyed expression, and raised his brows.

“‘I’m not gonna be the one to explain to yer father when ye come down with a serious case of dead.’”

Astrid broke, and released a giggle. Hiccup snickered, pleased with the victory; beating Astrid at anything took effort and he’d won twice.

“Did Gobber really say that?” She whispered.

“Aye, lass, that he did.” It was a perfect impression of the man and she wondered if he could imitate his dad. “Lots of times. Hey.” His face lit up. “I can show you around the forge. You can see the weapons and handle some of them. I’ve watched you train—you’re amazing—and if Gobber complains, I’ll say you want a new weapon.”

“Make it an axe.”

“A single blade or a double?” With that sentence, she knew they were still friends, even if they didn’t often see each other. Hiccup was the same as she remembered him, just...better.{/size:4}

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