Stoick gives his son Hiccup an apprenticeship for Snoggletog.
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“Dad! Really?” Hiccup’s eyes shone with joy.
“Happy Snoggletog, son.” Hiccup looked up—way up—to see his father smile through his thick, braided beard.
Hiccup crashed into his dad, and clutched him; he didn’t have words, just an overwhelming happiness he couldn’t control and had to share. “Thank you.”
“You are welcome. You might want to thank Gobber; this was his idea.”
“He wanted me as an apprentice?” Hiccup was gobsmacked. “He wanted me as an apprentice. Wow.”
“Wow, indeed. So, do you like your gift?” Hiccup stared at him and his dad’s smile became a laugh. “It was a joke, Hiccup. I think you will stay excited for a good while, and when Gobber comes over, you will knock him down trying to thank him. You almost took me down with that attack hug.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, but...wow.” His tone was awed. “I get to work in the forge. I’m working with Gobber. I’ll be a real apprentice and not just a kid. There will be work and I can make things, and I won’t have to be watched by a bunch of moms all the time. It won’t matter how big I am, either.” He couldn't stop talking; if he tried keeping quiet his head would explode. “Everyone will know Gobber picked me, and I can be somebody right now. Someone important.”
“Aye, it’s much better than being Chief a long time from now.” Hiccup checked on his father, but his eyes crinkled in merriment. “It’s a lot of waiting to do until then, and like you say, people will know you can work and be responsible. There will be new things to learn, too.”
“Oh.Yeah.” Hiccup couldn’t stop talking and couldn’t express the excitement, the joy, or any of the emotions roiling inside; it was a problem he solved by repeating himself. “I’ll be working in the forge with Gobber as an apprentice and learning a trade.” Those last glorious words felt foreign on his tongue, and he stared at his dad afraid it was a joke.
“It’s real, Hiccup. I give my oath as Chief.”
His oath. It had to be real then. “I’m not a kid anymore. I’m finally big enough to work with my hands.” Hiccup allowed it to sink in, before collapsing in a chair, worn out by the excitement. His father placed a mug of cider at his place.
“Son.” Hiccup came out of his daze to see his dad lifting a mug of his own. “Let us raise a toast. To Hiccup the Apprentice.” His father raised the tankard and Hiccup knocked his own against the larger one.
“To Hiccup—to me—the Apprentice.” Hiccup accepted the honor; there was nothing else he could do. Hiccup’s dad was giving him the most adult notice of his life; he had left childhood for good. He needed a better word than “wow.”
“If you are able to eat something, we can take a walk and look at the forge. It’s closed, but you will see the inside of it a lot more now. You might have to concentrate on chewing, the way your mouth is hanging open.” Hiccup gaped further, and his dad erupted in laughter. “I never thought you would be speechless. Come see me, then.” His father lifted Hiccup and wrapped his arms tight around him. “Gotcha.” His father held him and Hiccup settled. It was as if he’d been holding Midgard’s biggest breath inside and finally let it out. Dad always knew what he needed, even when it was a massive hug and a little hiding and an improper word like gotcha.
Hiccup stopped clinging after a few minutes, and his dad asked, “Feeling better?”
Hiccup thought a moment, than cracked a smile. “Aye.”
“If ye can use an improper word like “gotcha,” yer son can say “Aye.” He won a startled grin.
“I wilna argue with ye. Ye must be better, or ye wouldna be a such smart aleck.” His dad put both hands on his hips, a perfect imitation of Hiccup’s Grandmama. “Hand me those eggs, and we will ready some dagmal before we set out.”
The rest of the day was full of great things. He found a gift at the forge, a hammer like one he’d admired made to his size. At Mead hall, Gobber announced Hiccup would begin in three days, and he had better come ready to work because Gobber planned to run Hiccup so hard, his boots would wear out. He told all the others—Astrid, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, Fishlegs, and Snotlout—and they were excited with him. Uncle Spite said he would do the family proud, aunt Blis knelt on the floor to give him a hug, and Gothi smiled before promising to bring bandages and salve to the smithy. That got a huge laugh from everyone. Other apprentices congratulated Hiccup, said he was one of them, and offered warnings about having his feet hurt and making sure to eat before he went to sleep.
It was Snoggletog, too. Jaunty music started and people took turns playing so everyone could feast. Someone began singing “Out on the Waves,” a song that never ended. A whole roast yak and two roast boars fillled the room with an aroma that pulled people to the meat. The cider with exotic spices burned hot in his tongue but warmed Hiccup as he swallowed. Crafted decorations of wood and iron hung on the walls and posts. People danced and shouted and the bards told stories of god-touched heroes and distant lands. It was the greatest Snoggletog Hiccup had ever experienced.
His father stayed late at Mead hall every year, picking up the tiny children and giving them rides through the room. Older children snuck decorations onto his cloak and ran away giggling. His dad told odd jokes that made the adults laugh, or at least snicker. Gobber, this year like every year, pestered his dad into singing or reciting something he knew to the crowd. Gobber threatened to sing “Always Pack Your Undies” if he didn’t, and for the good of the tribe, Stoick recited one of the poems he learned long ago.
When the last families with children left and the serious drinkers remained, Hiccup left with his dad, exhausted but too wound up to sleep. It was the same every year, and his dad made them a warm drink and chatted with his son before bed.
“Did you have a good time tonight Hiccup? I can’t leave early, you know, and you are having trouble holding your head up.”
“You ask me every year. I don’t want to leave early, even if I get sleepy. It’s Snoggletog, Dad.”
“Aye. So, what did you like about today?”
“Odin left good stuff this year. I didn’t know you could get that much parchment in a helmet. I can carry the knife with me wherever I go. Maybe you can teach me to whittle.” It wasn’t exactly a question, but Hiccup wanted to learn. He wanted to share things with his dad, and enjoyed crafting things.
“Was there anything else?”
“The Council came and congratulated me. Hoark said I could do this and Knotlegs told me I was smart. I know Hoark thinks I’m annoying and Knotlegs believes I’m stupid, because of all the trouble I caused, but they meant it.”
“They saw you listen to direction and keep out of trouble. You have demonstrated you can work and be capable. Now you are taking on more work and happy about it. Those things changed how they thought about you, son. They respect you more.”
“Oh. I thought that was gonna take f’rever.” Hiccup yawned. He was tired, but they hadn’t finished the with the questions; they stayed the same every year, and only the answers changed. For the pair of them, it was as much a part of Snoggletog as checking his helmet for gifts and going to Mead hall. “Next question.”
“Do I need to say it this time, Hiccup?” His father’s brow rose.
“Yes. You have to ask all the questions, or it’s not Snoggletog. Come on, Dad.”
“Very well. What was the best part of the day? It’s no secret, but tell me.”
“Me.” He’d surprised his dad. “Not becoming an apprentice? If you had been any more thrilled, you could have flown through the village. Are you certain?”
“Yes. You picked it for me. You gave me real work. You swore an oath as Chief to me, and you poured cider to toast to my apprenticeship. I’m happier than anyone in Midgard, and you did all of it. I’m, I don’t know, not me anymore. It’s different.” He struggled to explain, and found a fitting word. “It’s a grand different, Dad. I’m bigger inside. I’m more grown up.” He leaned an elbow on the table for support. “Why did you do it?”
“You labored more this year than was ever expected of you before. You refused to whine, you helped everyone who asked, and you were pleasant while you worked. We noticed you happy to have something to do of your own. I want my son to be happy, be productive, and have something of his own. You help the tribe, too, and that’s important.” His dad leaned forward and said, “You showed me you could do this, and I believe you will succeed in the forge. All right?”
“You trust me?”
That floored him. So many times he’d messed up, lied, and broken the rules, especially this year. He’d been punished, but when it finished, it hadn’t been over for Hiccup. He hurt his dad and couldn’t forget that. Tonight, the last bit of worry and hurt vanished. Hiccup had earned back his dad’s trust, and his heart was full. Hiccup climbed into the huge lap.
“Dad.” He wanted to get this right. “The best part of today is my father. You are best of everyone in Midgard, and I’m so lucky to be your son.” He paused, and the perfect words came. “My oath as heir to Berk.”
His dad’s eyes opened wide, then became wet. Hiccup stretched out his arms and gave the biggest hug he could offer. When he felt his hair ruffle, he knew his father was better. Before Hiccup reminded his father about the last question—are you ready to sleep—Hiccup heard something unexpected.
“Stay here. When you fall asleep, I’ll put you to bed.”
“Okay.” His eyelids sagged.
“Are you ready to sleep, Hiccup?” The deep voice held a note of gentleness.
“I think so.”
“Happy Snoggletog, son. Good night.” The final words were a murmur.
Hiccup’s final coherent thought was he spent the entire day, up to the deep part of night, with his dad. It was the best Snoggletog ever.