|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.
§ § §
“Dad! Really?” Hiccup craned his neck, and saw his father smile through his thick, braided beard.
“Happy Snoggletog, son.”
Hiccup crashed into Stoick, clutching him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. You might want to thank Gobber; he agreed to it.”
“He wanted me as an apprentice? He wanted me as an apprentice. Wow.” Hiccup’s mind boggled, and he spoke more to himself than his father. “I’ll be working with Gobber in the forge, and have duties, and handle metal. It won’t matter if I’m a shrimp. Everyone will know you asked and Gobber said yes, because I can do the work. I can be someone right now. Someone important.”
“Aye, it’s much better than being Chief a long time from now.” Stoick’s eyes crinkled in merriment. “It’s a lot of waiting to do until then, and like you say, you have a place in the tribe.”
“I’ll be in the forge with Gobber, working with my hands and learning a trade.” Those last glorious words felt foreign on his tongue, and he peered through his bangs at Stoick. “For real, Dad?”
“For real, son. I give my oath as Chief.”
His oath. It must be true. Hiccup plopped into a chair, allowing the idea to penetrate; his father set a mug of cider at his place.
“Son.” Hiccup came out of his daze. “Let us raise a toast. To Hiccup the Apprentice.” Stoick lowered his tankard, and Hiccup tapped his own against the larger one.
“To Hiccup the Apprentice.” He’d advanced beyond book learning and doing chores, and had responsibility and labor like older Hooligans. His dad raised his drink to salute Hiccup and knocked mugs with him. Stoick was giving him the most adult notice of his life, and Hiccup’s childhood was over.
Stoick sat and opened an arm. “Come see me, then.” Hiccup climbed onto his knee and two massive arms wrapped around him. “Gotcha.” His dad’s grip soothed him, and his lap a provided a familiar place to recover from the excitement. Drained but secure, Hiccup nestled into his father’s side, and let everything in him settle.
A few minutes later, Stoick asked, “Feeling better?”
“Good.” Stoick released his hold. “Bring me the eggs, and we will ready dagmal.”
§ § §
At Mead hall, Hiccup told the other kids—Astrid, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, Fishlegs, and Snotlout—and won the best gift competition, beating out Astrid’s first shield. Gobber announced Hiccup would begin in three days, and he had better come ready to work because Gobber planned to run him so hard, his boots would wear out. Uncle Spite said he would do the family proud, Aunt Bliss knelt on the floor to give him a hug, and Gothi promised to supply Gobber with bandages and salve. Lead Apprentice Cliffnut Thorston shook his hand, and the other apprentices said he was one of them.
Revelry filled Mead Hall. Villagers played jaunty music, and people took turns performing so everyone could feast. Someone called for dancing, and people stepped and turned under posts adorned with pine boughs. A whole roast yak and two roast boars gave an aroma of crackling that pulled people to the meat. People shouted and laughed and Berk’s skald told stories of god-touched heroes and distant lands.
His father was in the middle of it all, picking up the tiny children and giving them rides through the room. Older children snuck decorations onto his cloak and ran away giggling. He challenged the men to sing louder than the women, and wagered on Uncle Spite in arm wrestling. Gobber, this year like every year, pestered his dad into telling something to the crowd. He threatened to sing “Always Pack Your Undies” if Stoick didn’t, and for the good of the tribe, Hiccup’s Dad recited a saga he’d learned as a child.
Now Hiccup was home, exhausted but too wound up to sleep. Stoick rebuilt the fire before sitting to talk with him.
“Did you have a good time tonight Hiccup? I can’t leave early, 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. He put a lot parchment in my helmet. I haven’t decided what to use it for. Maybe drawing.” Hiccup looked over his haul. “I like the warriors you made, but the big one’s my favorite.” The figure had a long beard and a helmet that matched Stoick’s. “He looks like you.”
“What about Mead Hall?”
“They had hazelnut cake and crisp bread and four kinds of jam. I had small beer, too.” Snoggletog meant feasting, and allowed Hiccup to eat rarely offered foods. “Blaritone the Skald taught me the dwarves are blacksmiths, and crafted treasures for the gods. He told the story because I was apprenticed to Gobber, and smiths made Thor’s hammer and Odin’s spear.”
“Aye, and the ship Skirbladnir. What else?”
“Hoark is bringing his dagger to the forge so I can sharpen it, and Knotlegs said I’m a deserving lad. Hoark doesn’t trust me, and Knotlegs thinks I’m a moron, but they meant it.” Hiccup had been an idiot, and the approval from both council members stunned him.
“They saw you listen to direction and keep out of trouble. You demonstrated you’re capable and happy to help this tribe, and that 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? We both know the answer.”
“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?” Stoick asked, startled. “Not becoming an apprentice? If you had been any more thrilled, you could have flown through the village.”
“Yes. You picked it, and swore an oath as Chief to me, and toasted my apprenticeship. It’s serious work and I can prove myself.” Hiccup paused. “Why’d you do it?”
“Hiccup, you did prove yourself. You labored more these past months than was expected of you before. You refused to whine, helped everyone who asked, and were pleasant while you worked. That’s why you have the apprenticeship—I know you’re up to the challenge. All right?”
Hiccup nodded. A few months back, he had risked both their lives, hurting and shaming his dad. The failure pained Hiccup, and he doubted Stoick’s belief in him could be restored. Now it was, and a burden lifted from his shoulders. Hiccup stood and focused his eyes on his father.
“Dad, you are the best part of today. You are greater than anyone on Midgard, and I’m so lucky to be your son.” Hiccup raised his hand. “My oath as Heir to Berk.” Stoick looked overcome, and Hiccup climbed onto him, wrapping his arms around his dad’s neck. His father accepted the hug and gripped him back. When Hiccup’s shoulders began aching, he gave Stoick a final squeeze.
“Good. Ask the last question.”
“Are you ready to sleep?”
“I think so.”
His father helped Hiccup into a nightshirt and tucked him under the furs. Brushing the hair out of his eyes, Stoick kissed his forehead. “Happy Snoggletog, son. Good night.”
Hiccup’s last coherent thought regaining Stoick’s trust was the real best part of Snoggletog.
§ § §
AN: Dagmal is the Viking equivalent of breakfast, eaten one to two hours after rising.
Skirbladnir was a ship crafted by the dwarves. It was small enough to fit in a pocket, and
became the property of the Norse god Freyr.
Tidings of comfort and joy, everyone! Whiskers