Eggpost is taken to Mead Hall, and, with help from Hiccup, her punishment is decided
She was wrong.
His dad, in four sentences, cowed the girl in front of him. She said nothing. Her sense of survival kicked in and she stared at the dirt, frightened as a child after a bad dream, and reluctant to move or speak. Her Chief remained still, and the weight of it burdened her until she answered him. “No, Chief.”
“You have nothing to say to anyone gathered here?”
She gazed at her father and whispered “Sorry, Dad,” hoping for a moment of relief from the eyes that condemned her. He granted her no such mercy, and for a moment Hiccup had a sliver of pity for Eggpost Larssen. Hiccup’s dad was always on his side, no matter how much he screwed up; the entire island, even her father, was against her and she had a lot of scorn and misery, not to mention loneliness, coming her way.
“Why isn’t she...” an angry voice began, only to be silenced by Stoick.
“She is allowed to choose her words and actions without outside comments from anyone.” A few grumbled, but no more remarks were forthcoming. “Are you done speaking, Eggpost Larssen?”
“Yes, sir.” She was utterly miserable and Hiccup provided her with the only mercy in the crowd. He deliberately lifted his chin; she caught the hint, did likewise, and his dad’s glower diminished. Hiccup had experience with an angry Stoick the Vast, and hunching never helped when you were under his eye. Mr. Iverson couldn’t say she didn’t know what it was like any longer.
“Come with me.” His dad strode ahead, leaving Eggpost to follow him. Gobber and Uncle Spite flanked her and she shuffled forward after her Chief. Mr. Iverson was in back of her, his presence keeping her from lagging behind. It was a walk of shame: boxed in by the four men, jeers or angry looks were sent her way, and the way she had angered Stoick the Vast added to the scorn. Hiccup felt the eyes of the crowd on him, and realized they looked at him, then her, and she received a number of forbidding looks.
In the hall, Stoick pointed her to a table and went to confer with the available council members. Mr. Iverson stood there as a guard would mind a prisoner, and he knew she had added a huge amount of worse to her situation. Gothi had arrived, as had Hoark, and five councilors was enough for a ruling. Hiccup sat separate from the others, and folk kept arriving at his table to ask him for information. He stuck to the bare minimum—Eggpost was in trouble with his dad—and pleaded legitimate ignorance for the rest. He wasn’t discussing her and refused to speculate, not when “Hiccup told me” would circulate through the tribe. Aunt Bliss could do it; Hiccup had enough on his plate and was happy to find out what would happen to her along with everyone else.
He was halfway through his drink and retracing lines in the water when Gobber came to his table. “I’ve been waving to ye for three minutes, lad. Come along— yer father wants ye to see him.”
Stoick had saved him a chair. He knelt on the seat for a better view and remained quiet, hoping there was a reason he was called to see his Dad. Maybe they wanted his story again.
“Son. I have some questions for you. What are the charges against Eggpost Larssen? This is an exercise.” Oh, it was a “problems for a Chief” question. His dad rarely used a real example, but today had been weird, so now it was weirder.
“The charges are showing disrespect to her Chief and defiance of his commands, plus troubling the tribe.” That was a starter question, and the next would be harder.
“Correct. What are the rest of the charges?” He missed one.
“Disrespect to a council member.”
“Again, true. What charges remain?”
“I can’t think of any others, dad. Sorry, I mean sir.”
“Is she a threat in any way?” This he could answer.
“Eggpost Larssen is a threat to the Hooligan tribe on Berk.”
“She created a problem when she didn’t have to, insisting on something that wasn’t allowed and ignoring the instruction of someone in authority. She kept causing trouble and tried to trick others so she could have her way.” It was time to make his conclusion. “She refused to be tribe.”
His dad looked around the table. “Does anyone have a quarrel with Hiccup’s assessment?” A collection of “noes” and head shakes was the response. “I believe Hiccup is correct, but for one missed charge. He excluded a threat against the Heir to Berk. In broad terms, she is also guilty of an attack on the Heir by abusing her position of power.” Hiccup was startled by the words, then chilled. The anger of the people outside had additional meaning to Hiccup now. Eggpost Larssen was guilty of a solemn crime, not just a serious one.
“You missed one more—a deliberate attack on a child, Stoick. That’s a further offense.”
“Thank you, Hoark. Tell us how many charges can be laid against Eggpost Larssen, son, and list them in order of importance.”
“Seven charges may be laid.” He listed them from least to greatest, ending with “attack on the Heir.”
“That was a decent analysis of the order of importance, and the final charge you provided is the gravest. It can be a stepping stone to treason.” Hiccup’s stomach turned. “In this instance, I doubt she intended treason, but if she is not kept in check, Eggpost Larssen can easily become a danger to all of Berk. Do you understand, Hiccup?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“All right. Which of those seven charges do we place against her, Hiccup?” His father moved to the next problem, and it was more complicated than before.
“Disrespect and defiance and bringing unrest. I don’t know about the others. It’s hard when they’re about me.” His dad didn’t respond; Hiccup was in his own this time. “I know she didn’t mean to attack the Heir or threaten the Heir. She was stupid, that’s all.”
“Aye.” His dad’s “aye” bolstered him, and Hiccup noted several nods around the table.
“Attacking a child, I’m not sure about. I didn’t get hurt. I stayed in the village and kept out of trouble, so I’m okay there. But she wanted to drag me to Gothi’s and ordered me to come, and she knew I’d get punished more if I did. She lied to me, too. I couldn’t disobey her or you,” he glanced at his father, “and I was stuck.”
“Ye realize that even if she’d taken ye straight to Gothi, she’d be in just as much difficulty with Gothi because she dragged ye there against yer father's commands. I know ye would tell Gothi right away, lad. Eggpost was in trouble as soon as she ignored ye.” Gobber’s words hit a chord in Hiccup.
“She had no way out. She trapped herself when she trapped me. I wouldn’t have been in for more punishment, would I?”
“No. She forced you and you had to do it because you could not refuse her. She was in the wrong from the beginning; you never were.” His dad’s last three words soothed the remainder of his fears.
“She said it was a little risk. I didn’t want to disobey and she acted like it was fun for her to cause a problem for me.” His brows were drawn down. “She did it on purpose, to hurt me, didn’t she?”
“Correct, son. So, do we charge her with an attack on a child?”
“Yes. How bad is that?”
“That is a serious crime and requires a thorough response. She can be imprisoned or shunned or denied resources available to every Hooligan. We will most likely do something else to chastise her, because those choices do not fit what she’s done. She will be humbler at the end, I promise you.” Hiccup had an inspiration and smiled wickedly.
“How much humbler, dad? Because if anyone wants to hear it, I have an idea.” His suggestion won a laugh from Gobber and amused approval from the rest.
“The notion is sound and fitting and ought to please the tribe. I am minded to see this break her pride. Thank you for the suggestion, son—I doubt any here will fight this method.”
“Can I go?”
“Yes, fine, now shoo.” His father waved him away and Hiccup saw a sparkle of mirth in his eyes as he did.
§ § §
Hiccup ate his scrounged bread and cheese, wishing he had something to draw with, when Mr. Iverson pulled out a chair and sat down.
“How are you feeling, lad? It’s been a full day for you.” He pulled out his knife and hacked off another slice of bread.
“I’m okay. Kinda hungry. Do I look hungry?”
“You do, but I’ve nothing to feed you with. I’ll make it up to you next time. I hoped,” he stroked his chin, “you could give me an idea of what they’re deciding at your dad’s table. They’ve been talking for a long time.”
No one sat near Hiccup and he trusted Mr. Iverson. “I don’t like to tell people about stuff like this. It means they keep asking and spread rumors; it’s my dad’s job to sort this out, anyway. Will you keep it a secret?”
“I won’t tell anyone; I want to find out for myself.” He turned the knife in his hands. “She doesn’t realize yet what she did, and hurting you was a bigger mistake than she knows.” He was worried and upset over his daughter’s wrongdoing, and Hiccup decided to answer his questions.
“I can say some things, Mr. Iverson. I think Dad will understand, ‘cause you won’t tell other people. Deal?”
“We have a deal.”
“There will be charges, more than one. They don’t want to put her in the cells. The council wants to decide what fits her actions, and I’m pretty sure I know part of what they’re doing. Right now Dad and the council are figuring out exactly how to give her sentence. She won’t be hurt but she’s not going to like it, either.” Hiccup peered at Mr. Iverson. “I think you’ll be okay with it but she went too far and made it worse, so they won’t be too forgiving right now.” Hiccup saw him absorb the words, and Hiccup gave him something he hadn’t planned to share. “She will be embarrassed in front of all Berk.”
“Embarrassed. My daughter hates that in front of one person, but this will be awful for her. Hiding is out of the question and this tribe has a long memory. You’re right, it won’t hurt her, but there will be no relief and she will be watched by plenty of folks.”
“Yep. It stinks like rotten fish guts.” Hiccup was relieved: he had said all he could. “I have to stop here, Mr. Iverson. They ought to work it out soon and we will hear what they decided. Alright?”
“Thank you, young man. I feel better knowing that. My daughter has earned her sentence and I can trust the decision to them. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Could you cut me more bread?”
The baker laughed. “What did I say? You’re always hungry.”
§ § §