Hiccup is sent to help Eggpost; she wants to defy Stoick and get Hiccup in more trouble
Hiccup knocked on the thick pine door. He knew where the Larssen house was, but had not been there before. A voice from inside called out, “Wait one, I’m coming.”
A younger woman opened the door.
“Hiccup? What brings you here?”
“Gobber sent me, Mrs. Larssen. He said you probably needed help and I could ask if you needed stuff done.” Please have work. Hiccup held his breath.
“Come inside then. I’m certain there’s a job you can manage for me. What tasks have you done?”
“Wash dishes, clear tabletops, make my bed, clean inside shutters, sweep indoors and outdoors, carry...”
Mrs. Larssen stopped him. “You’re no stranger to chores, anyroad. Can you feed chickens?”
“Yes. I’ve done that for the Thorstons, ma’am.” He’d never expected doing Ruffnut’s chores would come in handy.
“Show me what you know, youngster. The foolish birds are this way.” He followed her behind the house to the pen. “What do you do first?”
He went through the steps and when he demonstrated the wrist motion for scattering feed, she declared him competent and left him to it. “Find me when you’ve finished that. We’ll go from there.”
Hiccup finished in a few minutes, examined his work, and almost skipped back to the house. Mrs. Larssen held a basket, and asked, “Can you pull weeds?”
“The ones I know. I did that for Gothi’s garden, and picked herbs for her mixtures. I’ve had lots of practice; she says my knees are younger.” Mrs. Larssen smiled a little at the remark, the first bit of pleasure he’d seen from her.
“We’ll check on those chickens and see how you managed.” He led the way and she approved his efforts. “Decent job, Hiccup. Come along and you can prove you know weeds from plants to a picky woman like me.” He grinned. This was much better than inventing something to do, and he’d work here all day if she wanted.
He picked up a bit of soil and rubbed it on his hands. Mrs. Larssen raised her brow.
“And what is that about, lad?”
“Gothi says if you work in the soil, you have to make it part of you. That’s why I rub in dirt, to be like the ground I’m digging in. Where do I start?”
She rubbed her chin. “Back left corner and I’ll do the opposite one. Set the weeds to one side outside the plot and don’t shake them over the ground. If you do that, you plant more weeds.”
Hiccup labored steadily, and Eggpost Larssen watched him. She sat back on her heels and didn’t pretend to work. She yanked an occasional weed, but Hiccup was fine with that. He planned to keep going and only tackle her side if he finished the rest. He wasn’t going to get this wrong.
“Hiccup.” He looked up, blinking. “You’re separating the yellow tipped and the bright green weeds from the rest. What’s your reason?”
“Gothi uses them in her medicines. The yellow ones she dries and grinds into powder, and the green ones, I don’t know why she wants them. I saved them anyway. Her garden probably needs its weeds pulled, too.” He missed Gothi; working for her made him feel good, like he was helping people, even when she was the healer. “Am I doing what you want, or should I stop now?”
“Stop, and we can have a drink—weeding’s thirsty work and you and I have earned the break. Come rinse those fingers of yours first, unless you want to cover your hands in water before you have some.” Hiccup giggled and she chuckled back. “Come have a bite as well. I’ve enough to feed one growing boy today, so it may as well be you.”
She kept him longer, setting him tasks and staying nearby to do her own work. She asked questions, the kind adults use when they can’t think of anything else to say. Hiccup told her his age, his studies, and his friends. They talked about Gothi and Gobber and how important his dad was. Finally, she asked Hiccup a different kind of question.
“Why are you here today, youngster?”
“Gobber sent me so I could offer help.” He knew he explained that earlier, but he wasn’t gonna be rude and say so.
“Don’t you have to help Gothi?”
“I can’t help Gothi until I can leave the village, and that’s not for weeks.” He exhaled, reminded of his remaining month of punishment. “Gothi’s on the outskirts and not within my limits.”
“Did you ask permission to visit?”
“My dad let me go once and Gothi kept me most of the day. He decided that. I didn’t ask to go because I’m expected to be where I have permission to be, not anywhere else.” He looked at the floor. “I’m not an idiot and I will obey my dad.” Her eyes got bigger and Hiccup saw her understand.
“This is because of that tree you climbed.” He nodded in chagrin. “What about getting those weeds to Gothi? You can’t take them.”
“I’ll give them to my dad or Gobber. Gobber will do it if Dad’s busy.” At least Gothi would know he sent them.
“I’ll deliver them and you’re coming, too. You’re the person who saved them for her.” Hiccup gaped.
“I can’t do that. I’ll get in a bigger mess than I’m in now. I really don’t want worse trouble, Mrs. Larssen. Right now is bad enough.” His dad would keep him confined ‘til Snoggletog if he went with her, and he’d rather be fed to a Scauldron than wait that long again.
“Gobber sent you to work for me. I give you the work to do.” She was ticking each sentence on her fingers, and Hiccup listened. “You follow my instructions, and I am telling you we go to Gothi’s together. We will tell Gobber first, and if he doesn’t stop us, then it will be all my fault if going there is wrong.” She pressed her lips together.
“We will see Gobber first, right?”
“Yes, Hiccup. If Gobber doesn’t stop us, we deliver those weeds. Now go fetch them along.”
Hiccup prayed to Freya, Thor, and any other god out there that Gobber would say no. He had enough to contend with and his dad had no idea how tough Mrs. Larssen was to resist, especially when she told him it was assigned work. He was already doomed.
§ § §
Gobber spotted Eggpost and Hiccup and grinned. He knew Hiccup would please her with his willingness. She wasn’t effusive or foolish, but she had a soft center and would give his lad a fair chance. It worked and tomorrow he could send the boy to someone else.
“Gobber!” She hailed him, and he came out to see them.
“I see Hiccup found his way to your house. Has he been a help to you, then?”
“Yes, Gobber, the boy’s willingness to work is a good thing to see. My tasks have gone faster with him slogging beside me. In fact, he helped me weed the garden.” Hiccup cringed at that sentence and Gobber wondered why. “He even sorted out weeds for Gothi. Hiccup said she uses certain ones for her remedies.” Hiccup hunched his shoulders. The lad was becoming more and more frightened as she spoke. “So Hiccup and I are delivering them to her.” No mystery why Hiccup was afraid, then.
“Eggpost, he’s supposed to stay in the village.” Hiccup sent a look of gratitude his way. No wonder he wanted to vanish; being caught between Stoick and Eggpost, two Hooligans equally matched in stubbornness, was an impossible situation.
“It’s part of the work I gave him.” She raised her chin in challenge. “You sent Hiccup to me and I’ve assigned him work. We will go see Gothi.”
“Ye are making trouble for the lad. I know ye mean well, but ye can’t override his father in this. Ask Stoick for the chance; he’s a reasonable man and likely to agree to a trip for that. But ye can’t demand it. As ‘tis, ye made a good day into a rotten one for the lad by showing him that he doesn’t matter a whit except as a way to annoy the Chief. He’s had scarce few days anything went right and now you’re forcing him into an even longer time of being punished.” She provoked Gobber into a scowl.
“The plants are fresh and they’re best when fresh-picked. Gothi will want them now.” Stupid, stubborn woman.
“Go alone. Hiccup can stay with me, lass, and you can collect him after. But you’re stirring a bubbling pot, and it’s going to splash onto Hiccup, and he’ll be the one getting burnt, not you.” Hiccup had slunk away, hoping to hide from her. “The boy can’t tell you no and can’t disobey Stoick, and you’re forcing him into trouble with his father when ye insist. Hiccup stays here.” Gobber wouIdn’t put up with this nonsense. When in doubt, quote Stoick. “I do not permit it.”
“The boy will come with me. He needs to get out of here and Gothi likes him well enough to have him visit.”
“Ye show up there with Hiccup and it’s nothing but trouble. I’ll have to tell Stoick about this, but I won’t be the first to let him know. People are flapping their jaws right now and this conversation isn’t over. By the time we’ve finished here, a tale of how ye will be kidnapping Hiccup and selling him to pirates will be making the rounds.” He gave a disgusted snort. “Ye succeeded in bringing a great load of misery to yer life. The Chief will see ye about this, and he will want to know why ye caused such trouble in the tribe and especially to his son.”
“You don’t think he will overreact? I’m trying to help Hiccup and point out that the boy needs some freedom.”
“Trying to tell Stoick he’s wrong and you’re right when it’s about raising Hiccup won’t win ye praise from the Chief. Now get away from my forge. I’m sick of ye.” Gobber turned his back and lumbered into the forge to pound out his frustrations on the inoffensive iron. He’d nothing to gain from venting his spleen at her, as satisfying as it would be. He’d win the battle but hurt the lad, who had too good a heart to want them fighting over him. Wherever Hiccup went, he wasn’t in sight and Gobber hoped the boy would keep out of her way until she left or Stoick arrived.
Gobber ignored the mutters coming from outside until he heard “You ordered Hiccup to oppose Stoick. Are you mad?” It was Blister Jorgensen, Hiccup’s aunt. She wasn’t afraid to shout when upset and the Larssen girl was on the receiving end. “The boy is following orders given by his father and his Chief. It’s not for you to change that and I can’t imagine Hiccup asking for more trouble.” Gobber listened; Blister was in a righteous fury and cared about Hiccup deeply. “You threatened and terrified my nephew. Whatever Stoick and the rest of the council decide matters not; I will not abide the attack on my family.” Blister wheeled around, off to spread the truth behind the rumors and make certain the details of it reached throughout the tribe and to the council. Her word was trusted; Eggpost would not escape this unharmed. For a newly married woman, the scorn of other, older women would be a burden. Excellent.
Gobber turned to face Eggpost. She looked uncertain and Gobber saw more people enter the plaza, too many for this time of day. Some were coming to him, asking for nails or a whetstone as an excuse to listen in and examine the miscreant. Most were blatant, staring at the girl and muttering. She attempted to leave and Gobber warned her. “Stoick’s angry with ye, and making him chase ye down won’t improve his temper. Use yer brain. Stay put.” Half a dozen people laughed at the remark and she realized she had made a mistake. She had no notion how badly she’d made a right bollocks with her demands. This had become a council matter. She defied her Chief, harassed his son, and had every intention of landing the boy in trouble. She thought she could force Hiccup’s obedience to her over Stoick’s own decisions. She clearly showed her intent to challenge and defeat her Chief. She frightened Hiccup so badly that he ran from her. And she was trying to drag him to Gothi’s, and she was another council member. This was also an attack on a child and the Heir to Berk. The council would be involved: Gobber, Spitelout, and Gothi would automatically side with Stoick. The stupidity would be unanimously dealt with. Eggpost has chosen this. Gobber hoped she would land in as big a midden heap of misery as Hiccup had.
§ § §
Hiccup peered out from behind the butcher’s shop. He spotted Gobber speaking to Mrs. Larssen and saw her sink her head a little. She was in deep trouble with his dad, and Hiccup suspected this was going to be Mrs. Larssen in trouble with the Chief. This looked like upsetting the tribe, and his dad had no patience when people didn’t stop their nonsense before it got bad. He’d seen his aunt earlier, and she was mad. He ducked behind the bakery. Hoark’s wife was here and Pinchskin’s, too.
He hoped to survive this. His dad would make things worse for him and he really didn’t want to face the council. Wait, would the whole tribe see that? His life would be over. No one would ever trust him again.
He jerked. It was the baker, Mr. Iverson, holding two of the treats out for him. “You look hungry.”
Hiccup said the first thing that came to mind. “You said that yesterday.”
“Well, you do. Here, take these, they’re fresh. Your dad likes them and I thought you would, too.” Hiccup bit into one and immediately fanned his tongue—they couldn’t have been out of the oven more than a minute.
“What’s going on now?”
Hiccup gave a quick summary, concluding with, “This looks like Chief stuff. Mrs. Larssen is in huge trouble when he’s the Chief and not my dad.”
“Hiccup, I think you are right. She’s upset Stoick the Vast, and she’s never seen him angry up close.”
“How do you know that?”
“She’s my daughter, Hiccup.” He absorbed the information and Mr. Iverson added, “I’m not so pleased with her, either.”
“Oh. Can you get her out of trouble?” She didn’t deserve it, but his dad was terrifying when he got angry.
“No. If she’s going to be an idiot, she can stand alone in her idiocy. She doesn’t merit rescuing after defying your dad and her Chief as she did. Is that your Uncle Spitelout, lad?”
“Yeah. My dad will be next. Uncle Spite always gets anywhere before he does.”
“I think you need to get back to Gobber’s. He and your uncle will keep you safe. Oh, and lad?” Mr. Iverson squatted to Hiccup’s level. “You don’t have to talk to my daughter It’s not wrong or rude if I give you permission.” He stood again and said, “Get on over there, and I’ll be right along. Your dad will be looking for you.”
Gobber waved as Hiccup crossed the plaza. “Good to see ye are here, Hiccup. Where were ye, lad—at home?”
“No, I was behind the bakery, talking to Mr. Iverson. He’s coming over soon.” He saw Eggpost cringe. “He said he’s not pleased.”
Gobber raised his brow. “Yer fingers are red.”
“Mr. Iverson gave me two Raspberry drops.”
“Ye plan to rob that man of every pastry in the shop.”
“He gives them to me. I always look hungry, according to him. I’d better tell Dad—they need to be paid for.” Hiccup licked his fingers of the remains of the sweet. “Mr. Iverson said I didn’t have to talk to Mrs. Larssen if I didn’t want to, and it would be okay. I’m telling you so I don’t get in more trouble.” His uncle joined the conversation.
“You won’t be, not with us or your dad.” As uncle Spitelout finished his remark, the baker arrived, took a spot behind Hiccup, and gave his daughter a dark look.
Hiccup heard the familiar jangle of armor and saw his dad. Stoick was taking long, quick strides that kicked up dust and made his cape flap in the wind. People gave him plenty of room to come through; he radiated fury, and no one wanted to get in his way. Hiccup hadn’t seen his father that mad since he punched Mildew. Mrs. Larssen was in as much trouble as Hiccup, and not even her dad was on her side.
He heard his uncle mutter to Gobber. “This will be memorable.Two coppers says he puts her in the stocks.”
“Nah, he’ll use a cell. He’s furious. Maybe a cell and the stocks.”
“Wouldn’t blame him.” That was from Mr. Iverson, and the other two nodded agreement.
Hiccup’s dad walked directly to Eggpost and loomed over her. She straightened as best she could, staring at the Chief’s shoulder and trying to look strong. It was the wrong thing to do. To his dad, stubborn mixed with stupid always meant troubling the tribe. Stoick locked his jaw and glowered at her, daring her to speak. She began to wilt and finally spit something out.
“You wanted to see me?” It was a snippy remark, and she realized that the moment the words left her mouth.
“I wanted to see no trouble in this tribe. I wanted to hear my son had a good day. I wanted to believe Hiccup was safe on Berk. You ruined that and I am forced to see you.” He fixed his stare on her. “Look at me.” She shifted her eyes to stare at his beard, and he forced her chin upwards. “In the eyes, girl. I can tell the difference.” She took one look at her Chief and shuddered, before changing tactics.
“I was so pleased when he showed himself at my door. He’s helpful, and a hard worker; I was glad of his company. You must be proud, to have a fine boy like him.” Hiccup caught Mr. Iverson’s eyes, and saw his disgust. Hiccup knew flattery wouldn’t work and Mr. Iverson looked like he wanted to grab her by the ear and haul her home. If parents could punish married daughters, Mrs. Larssen was sunk.
“Aye, he is my son, and he obeys me. It does not matter what you believe, you cannot force him to act against my instructions. Your little speech does not alter the fact that you deliberately caused difficulties for Hiccup. You stirred up this island, and I will not tolerate such wrongdoing against my son or on Berk.”
“I was looking out for him. The boy was discouraged and I thought a visit would cheer him. It’s just a little thing, Stoick.”
Hiccup drew in a breath. Maybe she didn’t know his dad that well, but she just called him Stoick. He was her Chief. He was a lightning bolt straight from Thor, and she used his first name. It was unbelievable.
He had no more sympathy for Eggpost. She hadn’t listened to him or to Gobber. Everyone in the Plaza knew something was going on, and his dad heard everything that happened on Berk. Now she had made his dad leave his job to deal with her. Being Chief was tiring and she just tired him out more. Mrs. Larssen defied him, then tried flattery, then wheedling, and finally called him Stoick.
Hiccup unconsciously clenched his fists and stepped forward, becoming as angry as the men around him. The others shifted subtly to let him through; he was going to watch her and make sure she didn’t hurt his Dad. Hiccup would risk further trouble to look after Stoick, the man raising him, who deserved much better than to deal with her.
She was being as stupid and defiant as he was two weeks ago. She knew better and Hiccup would not let her get away with further misbehavior toward his Dad. His eyes narrowed. Gobber and Uncle Spite could stop him and he’d obey. If Mr. Iverson asked, he’d keep still about it. But Gobber and Uncle Spitelout knew—the
whole council knew—Hiccup protected Stoick.
Hiccup needed a permissible way to put her in her place and leave his dad alone. She was disrespectful to him and the council members, too. She ignored Gobber’s warnings. She stirred up the tribe. Yeah, she treated him badly, but he escaped. There was no escape for his father, and now she had landed in a heap of punishment. That thought satisfied him.
She yammered on, telling her Chief how much she was trying to do the right thing for Hiccup. She’d given him work, she said, fed him, and made sure he rested and drank. Hiccup was a good boy and and she would let people know how capable he was at tasks.
“He was missing Gothi. I thought the venture was worth a little risk.”
Hiccup clenched his jaw, infuriated. She knew it was hazardous for him and expected to do it anyway. He would lose respect when he had barely any, he’d anger and sadden his father, and no one would consider him good for anything again. He’d be punished for even longer and no one would give him work because he couldn’t be trusted to obey his Dad, even after he got in so much trouble he’d had multiple spankings.
She didn’t care. She only cared about herself. Not him. Not the tribe either; she’d upset a lot of people and that was not permitted. She disrespected a council member—Gobber—and her Chief.
“Chief.” Gobber spoke. “I think Hiccup disagrees with her idea of a little risk. Perhaps Eggpost needs to see what she’s done to the lad she was saying she looked after so carefully.”
His Dad and Eggpost turned to look at him. Eggpost smiled at him, silently asking Hiccup to rescue her. As far as Hiccup was concerned, she just made it worse. He glowered at her and she still didn’t understand.
“Tell your father it’s fine, lad.”
Hiccup looked at his father, and the anger in Stoick’s eyes abated, replaced by a steady regard. He asked his father, “May I have leave to speak, sir?”
“I was stupid. Two weeks ago I did not listen, did as I wanted and chose to break rules. I defied my father and my Chief. I am still working off my punishment.” He had to admit his wrongdoing anyway, so it might as well be useful. “Eggpost Larssen asked me why I was saving some of the weeds I pulled. I told her they were for Gothi, but I couldn’t go there. I said I’d give the plants to someone who could deliver them. She said we would go together to deliver them. I told her I would get in more trouble and I would obey my Dad, but she said I had to listen to her.” He worked to keep his voice steady. “Then she said she would ask Gobber and if he said no, we wouldn’t go. Gobber said no and she argued. She argued with a council member and ignored his warnings. She upset the tribe. She angered Gobber and Aunt Bliss and Mr. Iverson.” Hiccup took a deep breath. “She forced her Chief away from his work to see to her. She was disrespectful toward her Chief, challenging his decisions, trying to flatter him, and speaking to him using his first name. It is no way to address her Chief. He did not allow it. Eggpost Larssen told me if we went to Gothi’s and it was wrong, she would take the blame. She broke her word to me.” He paused, gathered what calm he could, and in a biting tone, said, “It was not ‘a little risk.’”
Eggpost was stunned.
“Hiccup, it wasn’t like that, lad. I only wanted to make things better for you. It was so unfair, so cruel, what your father did to you.”
“Do not criticize my father. He keeps me safe. You risked more punishment for me.” Hiccup began ticking off points on his fingers. “My father expects obedience. You were forcing me to disobey. He knows what is best for me. You don’t care about what's best for me, but just want to please yourself. You are doing wrong to me and everyone by this. He is not unfair or cruel.” Hiccup’s fingernails cut into his palms, and his face was stern; he did not need to finish the statement—”You are unfair and cruel” was written in his eyes. “Do not speak against my father, our Chief, again.”
His breathing quickened and he grabbed hold of the forge hatch. The desire to hit her was powerful and he chose, moment by moment, to remember she was part of the tribe, too. Hiccup had the unspoken rules within him: don’t strike anyone, don’t shout at adults, remember you’re not better than other people. The others were Hiccup’s private rules: don’t cause problems for Dad and protect Dad. Everything fit into those.
The accusations against her and the demands he aimed at her were improper. He was the disrespectful one now, addressing her that way. He stood as straight as he could and addressed the adults.
“I am sorry for overstepping my boundaries. I should never speak to an adult and tribe member like that.” He spoke the necessary words one at a time. “I am sorry for my words, Eggpost Larssen. I wish I had not said them.” Hiccup would admit his wrong behavior, but he didn’t feel bad about his words and to pretend he did was dishonest. “I regret not controlling my temper and behaving in a way that troubles the tribe.”
Eggpost had not left off staring at Hiccup and the other men looked to Stoick. He cleared his throat.
“Apology accepted. Thank you for the additional information, son.”
Hiccup closed his eyes, savoring the moment. They were still okay and he would probably, no would avoid more punishment. His dad even thanked him for what he said. The corners up his mouth turned up.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” He stepped back, done with his time in the spotlight. It was a good time to invoke “speak when spoken to.” He could stand back and listen to the rest. They were drawing an increasing number of people. Good. She deserved to be embarrassed.
“Have you more to tell me, Eggpost?” She had lost the thread of conversation, but her Chief had not. “You left off at ‘so unfair, so cruel, what your father did to you.’ Unless you want to begin with ‘I thought the venture was worth a little risk.’ You were addressing me at that time, not the Heir to Berk.” Eggpost didn’t think about that; neither had Hiccup, but Heir stuff was serious, almost as serious as Chief stuff. Mr. Iverson grimaced. She didn’t know that, either.
She didn’t know anything about being tribe. She didn’t realize they were all linked together and carried weight for each other. The idea of duty as expected wasn’t in her. Eggpost had no worries about offending the Chief or upsetting the Hooligan tribe. She thought those were rules she could break.
She was wrong.