Today was going to be great day. Snotlout was sure of it. Him and Hookfang had been practicing a new trick to show in the ring, and they were ready for it. Opening the shutters to his window, Snotlout saw just a few wisps of cloud in the sky, perfect weather for his trick.
Quickly he went down to the stable, where Hookfang and Kingstail were waiting for one of the Jorgensons to bring their daily basket of fish. Since Spitelout was still asleep after a long meeting the evening before, this task befell to Snotlout today.
“Are you ready to show what we’ve been working on, Hookfang?” Snotlout asked. The dragon snorted, and continued eating.
“Oh, you’re going to be like this today? Well, I don’t think so buddy. I need you to work with me, we want to show the others who’s best right? And that can only be the one and only Snotlout, Snotlout! Oi! Oi! Oi!”
The Nightmare, not in the mood for his friends antics this morning, ignored him in favor of his meal.
It didn’t take long for both dragons to devour their food, and soon Snotlout and Hookfang took to the skies, flying towards The Ring, where the gang met up every day.
“Please, Hookfang, I need you today. Let’s show them who’s boss!” Snotlout whispered while landing. The dragon snorted again, but touched down gently before walking towards the barrel with water to take a drink.
Snotlout watched from the dragons back, and he hoped that whatever was bothering Hookfang would end quickly.
When it finally came to the tricks, Snotlout was jumping from leg to leg, excited to show the trick him and Hookfang had been working on.
The twins went first. Let’s just say that it was fiery and destructive had it been on the ground. With blackened faces and singed hair the twins and the Zippleback landed, the riders giving each other a high five and smashing their heads together. “Awesome!” they yelled.
Astrid and Stormfly were next, pulling of an impressive series of twists and turns.
Fishlegs and Meatlug passed this round, the blond boy mumbling something about a stomach ache due to eating the wrong kind of rocks.
Hiccup went next, freefalling while making a few flips on the way, with Toothless catching his rider just in time.
“All right Hookfang, now it’s our turn. Let’s show them what we’ve got.”
Slowly, the Monstrous Nightmare rose to the air from where it was lightly dozing after Snotlout jumped into the saddle. The dragon flapped a few times with his wings, lazily gaining altitude, before lowering himself to the ground and landing in a curled position, continuing his nap.
“Come on Hookfang! This isn’t funny!” The dragon only sighed softly in response, smacking its lips a few times before continuing his dozing.
Angry, Snotlout leaped of the dragon.
“Hookfang! I can’t believe you! Of all days to go against me, you chose this one!” Snotlout yelled at the dragon. Hookfang snorted and turned his back towards his rider.
Hiccup took a step towards the fuming Jorgenson. “Snotlout, maybe something is bothering him. I don’t think you should be so hard on him, everyone has their off day and-“
“Shut up Hiccup! No one wants your nosy advice! Do you have to rub it in everyone’s face that you are smart? You have no idea how annoying you are! We only put up with you because finally you are useful! But sometimes I wonder if it was better it you went back to Hiccup the Useless again, since that would be so much better for everyone’s sanity!” With that, Snotlout stormed off, running towards the woods, leaving behind a gob smacked group of teens and dragons, and a hurt Hiccup.
“Stupid Hiccup. Stupid dragons. Stupid day.” Snotlout grumbled while he made his way through the woods. It had been over an hour ago that he had stormed out of the Ring, but Snotlout hadn’t calmed down in the slightest. “Always trying to be better than everyone else, always showing off. I can’t believe him! And he is supposed to be my cousin! If only he never met Toothless, then I would be the best Viking of the group!” He said while he smacked a low hanging branch away, only for it to smack back into his face.
Distracted by this throbbing cheek, the teen didn’t see the upturned root until it was too late, and he fell down the slope, his limbs flailing and his body scratched by leaves and twigs. He just saw the lone rock a fraction of a second before he crashed into it, the world turning black for a few moments.
For a few minutes Snotlout lay there, heavily breathing, letting the anger consume him even more. But a quiet giggle interrupted his angry thoughts, and he shot upright. His head didn’t agree with him, stars dancing across his vision.
“Who’s there?” he asked loudly once he got his bearings.
The giggling, however, had stopped. Slowly Snotlout stood up, and he cautiously looked around him.
“You might want to look up too,” a voice said, startling the Viking. He jumped and his gaze trailed to the branches of a big tree with an almost white bark.
Up there, sitting on a thick branch, was a young-looking girl. Her black hair was flowing over her shoulders to her back, and even though her dress was a dark green, it looked as if she was glowing in the daylight. Her big green eyes sparkled mischievously, and her bare feet swung to and fro in the air.
“Who are you?” Snotlout asked, his hand inching towards the dagger he kept hidden in his belt.
“Who I am doesn’t matter,” the girl answered, and she jumped from the branch she was sitting on, dropping lightly on the leaf-covered floor. “What I can do for you, that is what matters.” Slowly, she advanced towards Snotlout, and with every step she took, the teen took one cautious step away from her. Slowly they circled around each other.
“I am here to help you,” she said.
“Help in what way? How can a small girl like you help me?” Snotlout asked.
The girl giggled again. “Oh, I may be small, but what I can do for you, will be big.”
Suddenly, the girl dropped down, landing in a sitting position on the floor, and she crossed her legs. “You see, I am not one of your kind.”
“That I figured,” Snotlout responded, stopping in his tracks, but still on guard.
“What I can do, is simple. You wish for something, and I’ll make it happen. Immediately.”
Snotlout snorted lightly. “And what do you want in return? ‘Cause this sounds too good to be true.”
The girl shrugged. “I don’t want anything in return. All I want to do is make a human like you happy like only a fulfilled wish can do. So, what is your wish?”
Snotlout folded his arms, thinking. There was enough that he wished, but what was his biggest wish? Gold? Strength? A girl on his arm?
While those were things that Snotlout wanted, it was not something that would change much of his life, that he knew. He could have all the gold in the world, but that didn’t stop Hookfang from acting up, or Hiccup always butting in with his stupid advi-
“My wish is… that I will be the best Viking of Berk. And I used to be that, until Hiccup trained Toothless and stole my spot… So, I wish that Hiccup never met Toothless.”
“As you wish, as it will be.” The girl stood up and raised her hands. A sudden wind blew around them, and Snotlout had to grab his helmet to prevent it from falling off.
But as quick as the wind came, as quick as it went. As soon as it all died down, Snotlout looked around him. The girl was gone, no trace of her anywhere.
Snotlout looked around once more, but after finding nothing of the girl, he decided to head back home. If the girl was telling the truth, everything would be as it was. If the girl lied, then he had to find another way to become the best Viking of Berk.
The first thing Snotlout noticed was how bleak the village was. There was no paint, there were no dragon pens, no giant feeding bowls. The big sign over Gobber’s workshop, displaying the location of the dragon dentist, was gone.
“Could it be…” Snotlout wondered, and cautiously walked into the village streets. Dusk was starting to arrive, the sun slowly setting over the horizon.
As Snotlout walked, he saw few villagers. Only the guards and the odd Viking making their way home.
He had set just one foot on the plaza when the war horn sounded.
Those two words were all it took for the plaza to be filled with Vikings, all carrying their own weapon of choice.
“Snotlout!” He turned towards the sound, and saw Astrid gesturing towards the well, a bucket in each hand. “Get ready to put out the fires!” she yelled before continuing her run.
Unbelievable. The girl spoke the truth. Snotlout grinned. “Time to show who is the best Viking around here.”
The fight was bad. There were more dragons than anticipated, but that didn’t deter Snotlout from fighting his way to the top. Well, distinguishing his way to the top. Soon they would be ready to join the fight with their own weapons. A few times Snotlout thought he saw a familiar dragon – a Monstrous Nightmare just like Hookfang, only lighter. Or a Deadly Nadder he confused with Stormfly, but turned out to be the wrong color – but he had too little time to really pay attention to that.
It all ended when disaster happened. One farmhouse blew up, frightening the sheep inside and making them scatter, thus making them an easy prey. The farmhouse collapsed on itself, groaning and croaking, embers flying every direction. And behind it all stood Hiccup. Scrawny, awkward Hiccup. More wood fell to the ground, exposing more of the heir of Berk, and then Snotlout saw it.
Hiccup had two legs.
That was the last proof Snotlout needed to know that it was all real, that his wish had come true. The girl was speaking the truth, she had made it all happen. Or rather un-happen.
An angry voice interrupted his musings.
“Didn’t I tell you to stay inside?” Stoick’s booming voice asked. Said Chief was standing menacingly over the small form of his son.
“Well, yes, you did, but-“
“And what made you think that it was a good idea to go outside?” Stoick interrupted.
“I uhm- I thought that I coul-“
“You think?! You think you say?” Stoick asked angrily. “If you were thinking, then you would have stayed inside! Do you see what you have done? A whole herd of sheep, gone! Where do you think we can get our clothes from now, hmmm? And it is all your fault, for thinking that you could do something. You should think like we do, not like Hiccup does! You walk like us, you talk like us and you think like us! Not like a bumbling fool that can only ruin the hard work of others!”
More and more villagers gathered around the scene, all watching Hiccup fold in on himself under the towering figure of his father.
“No Hiccup! You tried, and it failed, like every other time. Go home, get inside, before you make another disaster happen.” With that, the Chief turned around. Suddenly all the villagers began to walk to a random destination, pretending that they didn’t watch it all.
Hiccup made his way to his home with slumped shoulders, ignoring the jeering and taunting of the twins, and the deadly glare Astrid sent him.
Snotlout felt something twinge inside at the sight of it, but it was soon forgotten in the post-battle clean-up and feast.
At first, it was weird to not have Hookfang around. For the last year or so, there wasn’t a day he hadn’t hung out with the Monstrous Nightmare. But with the pressure of being the best Viking, the feeling was soon suppressed for more pressing matters. Like ending on top in Dragon Training. It was rough, knowing that the dragons could be their best friends, but when they started attacking the teens when they were let loose, that feeling too was suppressed. It didn’t take long for Snotlout to fall back into the routine he was used to before they befriended the dragons. Helping his dad with his duties, preparing for his chieftainship, for Hiccup the Useless would never get that honor, even though he was the rightful heir.
With as much failures as Hiccup managed each day, there was no chance that he would get the power to lead the Berkians, for it would surely lead to their demise.
This was proven again and again with each dragon raid that came. Each time he would go outside with one of his contraptions, trying to catch a dragon to get some attention, and leaving a wreckage wherever he went. Then he would get a tongue lashing from his father in front of every villager, and after that the teens put in their two cents, only dragging Hiccup down further, but not realizing what their actions were doing to him. If only they knew.
“Where’s Hiccup?” Snotlout asked the morning after yet another dragon attack. The cleanup had gone quickly enough, since most of the damage had been to an abandoned house. Hiccup’s contraption had been destroyed by the wreckage of the house, but no one was really bothered by it, except for the creator of said contrapion.
“Who cares? It’s not like he’s very useful or something. It’s better that he’s not around us to contaminate us with his failures.” Tuffnut said. Ruffnut nodded fiercely while stuffing her mouth with bread.
“That’s kind of rude,” Snotlout said, while hesitatingly reaching for a piece of bread for himself.
“Hah! As if you’re one to talk!” Ruffnut guffawed. “You say the same things about him! Even worse!” This time it was Tuffnut who nodded fiercely.
“Well, I don’t mean it. Hiccup is… a good guy, even though he can be annoying,” Snotlout said. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know Hiccup. But then again, this wasn’t the Hiccup that he used to know. But maybe it was time to act different around his cousin. He didn’t deserve to be treated like an outcast all the time. And Snotlout was going to start now.
He put down his food, his determination to make things right overpowering his hunger.
“Well, I’m going to look for him. He is my cousin after all,” he said before he left the Great Hall, leaving four confused teenagers behind.
While the determination to find his cousin was great, actually finding him was proving to be harder than he thought. He had tried all the typical places: his house, the forge, the plaza, the beach and the Killing Ring. Right now, he was walking through the woods, unconsciously making his way to the Cove, knowing that his Hiccup liked that place a lot. Without dragons, the trek was a lot longer than he was used to, but after half an hour he finally reached the narrow pathway between two cliffs. This time, there was no shield wedged in between, so he could enter the Cove easily.
“Hiccup? You here?” Snotlout asked loudly. The only response, however, was the chirping of a few lonely birds who dared to live in a place that was often attacked by dragons.
“Hiccup! It’s me! Snotlout!” The sunlight reflected of the surface of the lake, blinding the boy while he was looking around, trying to find his cousin. Snotlout looked behind boulders, in trees, but Hiccup was nowhere to be found. However, his intuition told him to keep looking, because he was here somewhere.
A big cloud shifted in front of the sun, casting the Cove in shadows, and that’s when he saw it.
In the middle of the lake, down under the water, he saw something green, and brown. Walking towards the shore, the image became clearer, and Snotlout started shaking, his mind not really processing what he saw.
Because there, floating in the water, suspended by a rope tied around his ankle and secured by a root on the bottom of the lake, was Hiccup.
And he was not moving.
Without thinking Snotlout dove into the water and swam towards Hiccup, grabbing his dagger from his belt when he reached him.
Hiccup’s eyes were closed as he floated serenely, no movement at all, not even a fluttering.
As soon as Snotlout had cut the rope, he swam towards the surface as fast as he could, and then making his way to the shore.
Out of the water, he could see that Hiccup’s lips had turned blue, and his pale skin only became paler as the sun appeared from behind the clouds again.
“No, no, no, Hiccup!” Snotlout yelled in his panic. He pressed his ear against the small chest, hoping to hear a beating heart. But all was silent. The chest didn’t rise with a breath, and there was no pulse at all.
“Come on, Hiccup, don’t do this! This isn’t supposed to happen!” he said. He moved so he was kneeling at Hiccup’s side, folding his hands together and starting compressions, as he had seen others do. He didn’t think of stopping, even as the tears rolled down his cheeks, and his eyesight blurred.
“Please Hiccup, please come back! I can’t lose you! Please!”
He didn’t know how much time had passed, but eventually, he knew that it was useless. Hiccup was gone. And it was his fault.
“Oh, my Gods. Hiccup… I don’t… This… Oh, Gods.” His hands shook like crazy, but that didn’t deter him from putting his arms beneath his back and knees, lifting his cousin bridal style. Somewhere in the deep parts of his mind, he noticed how light the boy was, and how wrong it felt, but on the surface, he could only cry as he slowly made his was back towards the village.
Gobber was the first who noticed them. Snotlout saw him making his way towards the forge, his gaze traveling over the two teens before backtracking and stopping in his tracks. Snotlout watched him quickly making his way over to the two cousins, but not really registering what was happening. Only when Gobber was in front of him did he come out of his trance-like state.
“Snotlout,” Gobber said, but the three words that came out of Snotlout’s mouth put an end to what he was going to say.
“He is gone.”
He watched as Gobber put a shaking hand on his protégé’s neck, feeling for a pulse. But when he found nothing, he let out a shuddering breath before squaring his shoulders.
“I’ll take him for ya. You go get Stoick, tell ‘im to come home. I’ll handle the rest, okay?” the blacksmith asked, and he gently transferred Hiccup into his own arms. He waited until Snotlout nodded his head before making his way to the Haddock Home.
The teen watched Gobber leave, feeling detached from it all. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Why did Hiccup do this?
Deep inside, Snotlout knew the answer. It was his fault. His, and the other villagers. Everyone on Berk was a jerk to Hiccup. Only when he found Toothless did he make a friend, and was he able to change the view of the Berkians. But in this world, the world that Snotlout wished for, there was no Toothless. No way for Hiccup to show what they could do, what they could become.
He should have talked more often with his cousin, asked him to hang out with the others more often. He should have made him know that he mattered too.
But he didn’t.
All he was doing was bask in his glory. He let it go to his head. Yes, he was the best Viking, but was it worth it to not change at all? Because this world, where Hiccup didn’t get to meet Toothless, this Berk, was the same Berk as it has been for 300 years. And without dragons as their companions, there was no Hookfang either. And boy has he missed Hookfang.
“Snotlout?” The teen was abruptly pulled from his thoughts by the one he needed to find.
“Are you alright, Snotlout?” Stoick asked as he put one hand on his shoulder.
Snotlout could not meet the gaze of his Chief, he could only stare at his feet as he softly said: “You need to go to your house, Chief,” before running towards the woods again.
He didn’t notice the yells of his friends, who had just come out of the Great Hall. He didn’t notice anything at all, he blindly ran and ran until he reached the slope he fell down before he met the girl. This time he skidded downwards on his feet, reaching the end of the slope and landing in a standing position.
“Where are you?” Snotlout yelled. “I don’t want this wish! Undo it immediately!” He turned on his spot, straining his ears to hear the light giggle, looking in every tree branch for a dark green dress, checking each tree for an almost white bark, but there was nothing.
“Please! I’m begging you! This is not what I wanted! I want everything back as it used to be!”
No response. There wasn’t even a breeze to ruffle the fur on his jacket, no birds to pierce the silence. It was hopeless.
Snotlout sunk down onto his knees. “Please,” he whispered into the silence.
After an hour of begging, and getting no response at all, Snotlout made his way back to the village. Somewhere in his mind he noticed the oppressing silence of the village, the way people would look at him with pity and shock in their eyes, the closed shutters of the Haddock house. He noticed it, but it couldn’t bother him in the slightest. The only thing that he wanted to do was crawl into his bed and never leave it again. He didn’t want to face this world that he was starting to hate. He didn’t want to look the Chief in the eye, knowing that he was the cause of his only son’s death.
The door to his house opened easily without a peep, for the first time since he could remember, but he didn’t find it in himself to care. He trudged up the stairs towards his room, not bothering to remove his shoes before climbing in his bed and pulling the cover over his head. Only when there was darkness around him did he allow his tears to fall. If his father would enter his room right now, all he would see was a shaking and sobbing lump on the bed. But he was alone. His father needed to do the Chief’s duty right now, since Stoick wasn’t in any state do it himself.
And thus, Snotlout was alone as he cried himself to sleep, and he was alone when he woke up again.
But he didn’t wake up in his bed.
With his eyes closed, he could hear soft crunching sounds from under him when he moved. Fisting his hands, he felt leaves crinkling in his palm, and the sound of the woods greeted his ears.
With a shock he opened his eyes, and he found himself laying at the end of the slope, a trail of dirt marking his descent, with him ending with his head against the lone rock, but he felt no pain. No dizziness, no nausea at all. None of the symptoms of a concussion.
Quickly Snotlout stood up. Looking around him, he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Was it a dream that he had returned to the village after begging for the girl to appear? Did he fall down the slope instead of skidding on his feet?
He shook his head. There was no use in asking himself these questions. He wanted to go home, so he did.
Again, he trudged over the trails leading the way home. Again, he spent the journey in a haze, and only when he reached the edge of the village did he notice it.
The colors. The bright houses, the pens. The giant torches turned feeding bowls. The dragons flying overhead in all directions.
Snotlout could feel his heart skip a beat as he took it all in. Could it be…?
Not wasting another moment to find out, he ran as fast as he could towards the Ring.
The moment he arrived, he knew he was too late. There was nobody in sight, the doors to the old cages were closed and the scoreboard stored away in one of them. Even Hookfang was gone.
“You owe some people an apology.” Startled, the teen turned around to see Astrid standing in the entrance, her trusty axe slung over one shoulder while she scratched Stormfly’s chin with her other hand. “Not only people, but Hookfang as well,” she continued, not taking her eyes of off her dragon.
“I know,” was all Snotlout could say. There weren’t more words needed to convey that message.
“Hiccup was hurt, you know. I know that it was all our fault, but he’s still insecure about himself, because of how we used to treat him. He tries to hide it, doesn’t mention it at all, but I know. And what you said cut him deep,” Astrid said, finally turning her gaze to the male teen.
“I know,” Snotlout repeated. “And I will apologize. Do you know where he is right now?” he asked, and he took a few slow steps towards the entrance, preparing to dash of after hearing her answer.
“I don’t know. He said he wanted to be alone, then walked away from here. He didn’t even want Toothless to follow him, so I guess you got him good with your words.”
Snotlout’s breath caught in his throat. Oh, no… Please don’t let it happen again.
“I have to find him!” he exclaimed before running towards the Cove. He didn’t even think of getting Hookfang and fly to it. His only thought was on getting there before it was too late.
He ran like he never had before, skidding to a halt in front of the opening to the Cove. Seeing the shield wedged between the cliff was a comfort for him, knowing that he at least was back in his own world. But he quickly shoved that thought out of his mind. It didn’t matter if he was too late.
He crouched and stepped under the shield, straightening up as soon as he was past it. His gaze shot towards the lake, and when he realized what he saw, he couldn’t help but let his eyes well up with tears.
Only this time they were tears of relief and happiness, for there, sitting on the shoreline, was the slim figure of his cousin. He was touching the surface of the lake with a stick, making rippling effects on the water and watching them move.
Silently Snotlout made his way over towards the teen, and sat down next to him. For a while neither said anything, just watching the rippled dance over the lake, and taking it all in.
“I’m sorry,” Snotlout eventually said. Hiccup stilled his movements, but didn’t say anything in response. Snotlout took this as his cue to continue. “Those things I said were out of line. You’re not annoying. Your smarts helped Berk grow into the village it is now. Without you, life wouldn’t be half as fun. And never do I want you to go back to Hiccup the Useless. You will always be Hiccup the Useful.”
At first, he thought it was a trick of the light, but then he realized that he saw a tear trail down Hiccup’s cheek. “Thank you, Snotlout,” he said softly.
Snotlout shrugged, and put an arm around his cousin’s shoulder. “It’s okay.
I couldn’t have wished for a better life than this one.”