It was a storm like no other Hiccup had ever seen. The winds howling sounded like the great Fenrir himself breaking free. Worse still was how fast it had come on. Toothless, being a dragon, had never let them be caught in such a storm before. It just felt so unnatural, putting both the fliers on edge as they desperately tried to make any sort of headway.
“Ok bud, if going around this storm isn't going to work, let's try and go above !” Hiccup urged, shifting in the saddle to make it easier on his partner.
Toothless let out a grumble, more interested in finding land than trying to outrun the storm. He knew this storm couldn't be outrun. But still the night fury redoubled his efforts, rising quickly. His other self was right, they were Alpha; they needed to get home if this storm was heading towards their nest.
No matter how high they climbed the sky didn't lighten. Instead the winds got rougher as Toothless dug deep and reached for the sky space where the air was almost too thin. Except they never seemed to reach it. He screamed his fury at the winds when it became clear how trapped they were. Too high to safely land in this weather even if they could but unable to get high enough to escape. Toothless could feel Hiccup shivering as the cold cut into them, could feel himself slowing down.
Still they fought on. They both gave it their all, even as the wind that had been beating upon them relentlessly vanished, somehow taking all the air with it. Up became down and down became up as they fell uncontrolled for the first time since their joining.
And then it was over.
The skies didn't clear even as the wind came rushing back, catching the Alphas and slowing them enough that they could regain flight. Toothless snorted out a warble, shaken but otherwise not harmed. He tilted his head, worried about his human. His warble became a shrieking cry when he realized his saddle was empty. The dragon felt panic rise as he looked for his Hiccup. Surely the other was fine.
It was then he felt Hiccup, “ Toothless? I… I think something is wrong.”
Toothless grunted in surprise before turning his attention inwards even as he searched for a place to land. There was Hiccup, somehow inside him. Oh, Toothless had always felt Hiccup, but never like this . This wasn't the feel of a nest-mate, it was too intense. As if there was a whole other dragon shoved into his body. He didn't like it. Like this, he couldn't check Hiccup over.
“I'm fine, bud. Just very confused. I think we should land, though. Where in Oden's name are we?” the other asked, looking through Toothless's eyes at a land that was definitely not home.
"Easy now, friend.” Raven patted Stormwind on the shoulder as the stallion huffed out an agitated wicker. The Llysanyin stallion tossed his head and stomped his foot, uneasy with the sudden storm. “I know, but it isn't much longer until we reach the city. I'd rather get a little wet now and spend the night dry than risk waiting this out under a tree. What do you think?” Stormwind thought about it, ears flicking back and forth. Raven smiled to himself before continuing, “Just think of the welcome Kella will give you. Especially since there won't be any ponies to distract her this time.”
That seemed to decide his mount. Eager now for the doting attention of Kella, Stormwind bobbed his head excitedly, picking up his pace. Raven chuckled in amusement even as he cast a wary eye to the sky. He didn't particularly like passing by this section of the woods on the way to Casna. Though he hadn't been there with Maurynna the story itself was enough to give him nightmares. Evil mages indeed. No; this pace was unsettling enough that Raven wasn't about to dally. Especially with a wicked looking storm brewing. Hopefully they'd reach the city before the sky opened up.
It could have been the pressure front, or it could have been something else that caused it. Whatever it was that caused Raven's ears to pop also caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end and had the both of them casting a wary eye to their surroundings. That was the only reason the Yerrin man spotted the darker shape against the coal black sky. A shape that vanished almost as soon as he saw it.
Stormwind froze on the spot and Raven realized he must have seen it, too. “Was that what I think it was?” The equine nodded, heading down the trail at a canter as the skies opened up. Raven was of a mind to go even faster, but safety was equally important as speed in this weather. An hour or so more wouldn't make any difference in how quickly he could contact Dragonskeep about what they'd just seen.
Now how to get them to believe he'd seen such a small dragon in the skies of Casna...
Toothless mentally curled tighter around his other self as they lay sprawled out in the sun as a dragon. They had been in this strange land for a full moon cycle now, and while the dragon was anxious to return to their Nest if he was honest, Toothless wasn't too worried about the flock. He was alpha, but only because Hiccup had needed him to be one. He was sure even if they didn't return the flock would be fine. They had their people, and Cloudjumper of course would make a good Alpha if the dragon could be bothered. No, Toothless was more worried about Hiccup than the flock.
His other self was upset, and he understood that. Hiccup might have had the soul of a dragon, but that didn't mean this wasn't stressful. Toothless for his part found he didn't mind too much, but then again dragons were more used to sharing themselves with the nest. Of course, experiencing what it was like to be a human was pretty interesting, even if he had fallen flat on their face a few times. No, he didn't find it as confusing as Hiccup did.
Toothless was more concerned with how he was growing, something he should have been well past at his age. But it seemed their new state had triggered a growth spurt. The alpha dragon was now at least as big as Cloudhopper, which was a problem when you didn't know where it was safe to hunt. Not to mention he was rapidly outgrowing the tailfin Hiccup had made. It was only because his human half had managed to lock it into the gliding position Toothless was even able to fly now. Except his new growth meant his tailfin was once again lopsided. It was getting dangerous to fly, so they would need a new one soon.
That was a worry for later, when Hiccup woke up. For now he'd settle for wrapping them both in the protective shelter of his wings. The weather was much warmer than either of them were used to, even roosting by the sea. Hiccup had managed to raid the large human settlement nearby for something to wear other than his leathers. A good thing, he had stood out too much in them the few times he'd let his human go wandering. It still was frustrating, though. The new coverings did nothing to protect his Hiccup and so Toothless worried endlessly when the other snuck into the settlement, so he tended to bully the other into staying a dragon. Not that Hiccup really protested since he'd always been a dragon in every way but form.
Still, the dragon knew it was necessary to their survival for Hiccup to take the risk of going into the settlement. With each trip Hiccup understood more of the strange language, learning more about the threats of this land. Better still, he was able to supplement their hunts with human food. Hiccup needed things other than fish to eat. Toothless knew that, even if his human self refused to take what he needed to survive.
As his human half grumbled towards waking the dragon resolved to be more forceful in reminding his other self to take care of himself. He would go into the settlement himself if he had to.. It would be a risk, but if they went late no one should notice a black dragon. Yes, he liked this plan. They would hunt in the strange settlement together.
Duke Beren, uncle of Crown Prince Rann and Regent of Cassorin listened closely to his guests as he watched the children play. A few years ago it would have been unheard of for a merchant child to play with the prince, or for the Regent to entertain a horse trader and a thief. But here he was, watching his nephew play with Kella under Maylin and Beryl's careful eyes while he spoke with Raven and Eel.
Of course, a few years ago he would never have dreamed of counting a Dragonlord as a friend, either. The events at the Regency debate had definitely changed many minds among the nobles in the kingdom, even those who had not been even indirectly a part of the coup. Given that, you would expect the dragon spotted soaring over the sea recently to be cause for excitement, not worry.
“And you're sure of this?” He asked Raven again.
“Yes, I'm sure. It's definitely a dragon, but it's not like any truedragon I've ever seen.” Beren frowned before nodding reluctantly in understanding. Raven had traveled to Jehanglan in the company of four dragonlords and Bard Otter. On that trip it was said they had seen truedragons long thought extinct. That combined with the man's friendship with a handful of different dragonlords and frequent trips to their mountain home made him something of an expert on what a dragon looked like. “It was as if the storm summoned it, darker than the sky around it and faster then it had any right to be.”
A storm that was unnatural in how quickly it had formed...and how quickly it had vanished. A storm that had apparently started at that cursed place. Was it truly a dragon after all, or some unholy monster summoned by black magic?
“That matches the rumors at the docks. They say it's only seen at dusk and dawn. Darting through the waves and then vanishing.” Eel added.
“You mean it swims?” The Duke asked, surprised as this was the first he was hearing of it.
The little thief, ex-thief really, nodded, “I have that bit of news from Sanam, and he's not one to exaggerate. Here too is another bit of news for you; there's been a stranger at the docks.”
Raven sat up straighter at that, “What do you mean? This is the first I've heard of it.”
“Ah, but there are always strangers at the dock. So naturally they would be overlooked.” Eel said, taking a sip of his chilled wine. Offering them a sly grin he thumbed his nose, “Of course, I noticed them. Slinking about the docks and market district only to vanish. And I do mean vanish. I trailed him just the other night, you see. Young fella, slight limp, brown hair, green eyes, and sticky fingers if you catch my meaning. Spotted him in the market district and followed him around all night. Exhausting it was. But not so much so that I'd have missed him ducking into a warehouse or onto a ship when he made for the docks come the dawn. No,” here the little man wiggled his fingers, “he just vanished. Like mist on the sea.”
“You think this dragon and young man are related?” Raven asked, looking between Beren and Eel. The thief shrugged.
Beren ran a hand through his beard as he thought on it. “Could it be… that they're one and the same?”
“That is exactly why The Lady sent us!” A cheerful voice called out from the far end of the gardens. Looking up the Duke watched as Rahm and Kella went running towards the figures standing there, having recognized the visitors before they were even announced. Even as he stood he felt a wave of relief at the sight. While the two dragonlords weren't well known to him he was pleased all the same to see them. As much as he would like to see Linden and Maurynna again if this was at all tied to that place… no. It was better they stayed far away.
“None of this looks familiar to me, bud. Not even from Mom or Dad's maps.” Hiccup complained, rolling the kink out of his shoulder before returning to his map making. They were almost out of hide and he'd yet to spot anything familiar.
Toothless snorted, his disbelief that the two older vikings could have been anywhere like this clear. Impressions brushed against Hiccup's mind, thoughts of cold lands and colder waters as the dragon settled for a nap.
“Yeah well. Vikings do go a-viking-ing,” the dragon let out a warble of a laugh, “shut up you know what I mean. Just because Berk was always fending off the dragons from the Queen nest doesn't mean we aren't vikings. I mean… you've seen the maps!” He could feel Toothless's lack of interest in that. Dragons didn't need maps, and as far as his other half was concerned Hiccup's maps were the only ones worth paying attention to. “Just take my word for it, alright? I thought this was maybe the land to the far west, but it's not. It's also not a part of the Roman Empire. I'm at a complete loss on where we are.” Hiccup admitted, leaning back against the rocks. “Or how to get home.”
If he knew where they were this would be much more enjoyable for the both of them, Hiccup thought. They could take their time getting used to this new… thing. Toothless could show him how to fly properly once the new tailfin was done. Hiccup could enjoy exploring the city --for with that many people it wasn't a village -- and it's people. The use of glass alone was amazing. Sure, on Berk they'd been making mirrors and the like from glass since the dragons had first moved in, but to use it in building houses ? Imagine being able to see who was outside your home without opening the door ! Of course, Berk was a lot colder, so they'd have to see if it was even something they could do. Vikings and dragons didn't mind being cold, but glass did get cold as ice. Would it shatter, or would it make the houses much colder? He itched to experiment, wishing there was a grunkle around he could convince to help him. Their plasma blast wasn't exactly useful for melting sand. Sending it flying as a deadly half melted rain, yes. Melting no. He'd really need to find one of the flame breathers for that, or a lava spitter ideally.
That was another thing. This land didn't seem to have any dragons. He and Toothless had flown as best they were able to in all directions and not come across so much as a terrible terror. It was worrying; how far did they go that there were no other dragons around? Their sudden lack made Hiccup uneasy in a way that their sudden merging hadn't . Maybe it was because they'd always been a constant in his life, or maybe his mother was right and he really did have the soul of a dragon. Whatever it was that caused his unease Toothless felt it, too.
Hiccup had always been able to understand Toothless, but in recent years it was more that Toothless was the other half of Hiccup. At first he thought maybe all the dragon riders felt the same, but a few careful questions all around had shown him that they were unique. It shouldn't bother him, and most times he was pleased to share everything with Toothless. But… Hiccup had always been the outsider, and this was just another thing that made him difficult, or well. Different.
And now he could hear Toothless in his mind as clearly as his own thoughts. He could easily slip into Toothless's form and fly , and Toothless could do the same for him. Hiccup knew he should be at least a little bit concerned about this new change, but he wasn't. It was comforting in a way that suggested maybe he had been feeling Toothless there for a long time and just hadn't paid it any mind. Toothless, when Hiccup had asked him if he felt it, had just rolled his expressive eyes in a way that suggested his human was slower than a hatching. That had settled matters. If Toothless wasn't bothered about being a human part of the time he wouldn't worry about being a dragon the other times.
Lleld whistled to herself as she guided her mount off the trail. She wished she had Miki, her Llysanyin mare with her, but this pony wasn't too bad. He was pretty easy-going even if he was a bit bigger than she preferred. Still, it was a mite faster than walking and much more subtle than flying.
As she neared the buffs Lleld could see the warded stones that stood lookout against whatever darkness remained in the forest. Rising up in her saddle she spotted the signs of a camp, but no one was around. All for the better, she thought while grinning to herself as she urged the pony into a faster trot. She had been hoping for this really. Since the strange person spotted had been spending a day every few days in the city she had come up with the idea of finding where this person was staying. Her argument was simple; it was better to approach a strange dragon where they wouldn't feel threatened. Even if Jekkanadar had seen through her plot to be nosey he had to agree with her logic, and so had scouted out the area by air just the other day. He had spotted their mysterious stranger working diligently on something, a mess of a camp taking over half the standing stones.
So today when Eel had gotten word to Raven she had been ready. As soon as her friend had mindspoke her she had left. Naturally a small woman would be a lot less intimidating than Jekkanadar, even if she could turn into a dragon, too. The plan was simple, check out the camp and then head back to the city to talk about the next step.
As Lleld swung down from the saddle she immediately revised that plan. Her curiosity wouldn't allow anything else, really. Careful not to touch anything she looked over the strange leather armor -- because it couldn't be anything but armor -- and sword hilt. That one she almost did pick up, because who traveled with just a hilt ? At the last moment she stopped, not needing Jekkanadar to tell her it was a bad idea, though he did anyway.
He was more interested in the strange workings in the middle of the camp and it was unfortunate Lleld wasn't quite sure how to explain what she was seeing to him. There were pieces of thin metal stroon about as well as a material that seemed to be some kind of hide or fabric. That she did handle, running the supple yet stiff material through her fingers as she tried to place what it was. It looked like their mysterious stranger was making something, but she couldn't tell what, only that it wasn't magic, thank the gods.
Still, it was strange enough that even Jekkanadar reluctantly agreed to let Lleld approach the stranger tonight instead of waiting until the Lord Duke could gather a subtitle group the next day. Such an action would definitely end in their quarry either running or fighting. Since it was entirely possible the stranger was a Dragonlord that would be a very bad thing.
“Tonight then.” She said, hopping back into the saddle and reluctantly heading back to the Vanadins’ house to wait out the rest of the day. It wouldn't do to get caught in the camp.
Hiccup eyed the young woman approaching their little camp with a practiced eye. She was short, about Gothi's height with fiery red hair. Short enough to be mistaken as a child, but Hiccup knew better than to judge based on appearance alone. No, this was a fighter who was calling on them. He was doubly glad he'd convinced his partner to let him work again on their tailfin tonight. Though spotting a night fury in full darkness was hardly an easy task even if they hadn't wanted to risk the moonlight giving them away tonight on a hunt.
When the young chieftain judged their guest close enough that she'd be able to see him easily he stood and waved before he rolled the half completed fin up and stored it away against the standing stones. True, not exactly the smartest thing he could do but not the dumbest. He wasn't about to let some stranger poke around his things. She'd obviously seen the light of his fire in the distance, and he wasn't about to be run off his camp just because someone might be a threat. This location was pretty ideal for both of the displaced leaders; sheltered by large rocks with the ocean a cliff jump away for easy hunting or an easier get away. Neither was eager to give up such a perfect spot, especially one close enough to… whatever it was that had pulled them here.
“Hello! I saw ---- come ---- alright?” The woman called out, pulling him out of his thoughts.
Hiccups could have kicked himself. ‘Of course she's going to want to talk to me… gahh a month is not enough time to learn a whole new language--’ “Hello. Uh… welcome. Er…” ‘crap this was such a bad idea…’
“Not from ---? Do you --- Ahikini?” The woman asked, dismounting and hobbiling her pony with the ease of long practice. Hiccup just stared at her intently, trying to parse together what she was saying. She didn't seem to take offense to his lack of answer. If anything it seemed to make the lady more bold. She quickly made herself at home in front of the fire, sitting almost directly across from him. Hiccup, knowing his manners, held out a fish skewer for her. This began one of the most awkward meals he had experienced in a long time.
“So, uh. What brings you out here?” He asked at length causing the woman to pause. “Right. Forgot you can't understand me… I'm Hiccup, by the way…”
L leld blinked in surprise. The accent was very thick and the words were stressed differently but she could have sworn he was speaking arolan, commonly known as the language of the dragonlords. Something that surprised her to hear so far south. Then he introduced himself and she knew it was at least derived from language they used at Dragonskeep.
“I'm Lleld, Lleld Kemberaene.” She replied in arolan.
“Oh, thank the gods you understood that-- wait, you understood that? But….how?”
“Well, I could say the same.” Lleld replied easily, “It's not often you find someone who speaks arolan, especially so far from Dragonskeep.”
“Arolan? What are you talking about? I'm speaking Norrœnt mál.” The young man replied, “And… Dragonskeep, you said? Is that the name of your village? Is it far from here?”
Lleld reached out to her soultwin Jekkanadar even as she shrugged. Ever heard of a language called Norrœnt mál ?
I can't say that I have. Why?
Our stranger speaks it, and it's remarkably similar to arolan. His name is Hikst, by the way.
Hiskt? His name is Hiccup? What an odd name. Where is he from ?
That's what I was hoping you could tell me… he's never heard of Dragonskeep, though. Hold on, I'll ask. “It's a few weeks ride. Way up in the mountains to the north. And you? Where are you from? You can't tell me you're a local, your Cassorin is horrible.”
“Hey! That's a bit mean. True. Still mean, though.” He said in arolan with a small smile, inviting her to poke fun at his poor language skills. He then continued in arolan, or his variation of it. “To be honest I've never even heard this language before. I mean, I speak a bit of, oh, maybe four or five languages. A dozen maybe if you're just looking at key phrases. This one is completely new to me. You said it's Cassorin? Huh.”
He must be from far. He's never even heard of Cassorin, yet here he sits just outside the capital.
Stranger and stranger, especially given he would have heard it traveling here you'd think.
“I'm from Berk, by the way.” Hiccup continued.
“I'm not familiar with that place. How far is it from here?”
Now it was rrrre his turn to shrug. “Who knows? To be fair we're kind of far from… well. Everything. Even by Viking standards. Next island with any sort of real village is a month away by boat. W-- I mean I must had gotten turned around sailing. Because that's totally how I got here. By boat. Yep. Turned around...and now I'm lost.”
Toothless was laughing at him, and he supposed he deserved it. You'd think now that he was a chief he'd have gotten better at speaking with strangers. Hiccup could admit he had , but only when speaking about dragons. When it came to just about anything else? He might as well be fifteen again. Avoiding Lleld's incredulous stare he poked at the fire some more.
At long last she spoke. “I see. Is there a reason you're camping out here then? The city is only an hour or by foot. Wouldn't you be more comfortable at an inn?”
Here, he was on firmer ground. “Not really. I mean, for one thing, I don't have any local money and not much I'd be able to trade.”
“Well, that's true I suppose. But I'm sure something could be worked out.”
“Eh, I kind of like it out here. Berk doesn't have anywhere near as many people, so I'm not really used to all that. Of course, it's a lot quieter out here than home, but I don't want to accidentally throw a fish at someone for startling me or something.”
“Fish?” Lleld laughed, “why would you be throwing fish?”
“Oh…” he said, trying to cover himself. “It's just a phrase.” He tried, knowing it was a weak excuse. Not that he could tell her it was because he was used to nosey dragons getting in his business and on Berk it had become a common practice to bribe the dragons with fish. A bit counter productive maybe, but it worked. “What about you? What are you doing out here if the city is so nice?”
“Oh, this and that.” Lleld answered. “The truth is I was out exploring and lost track of time. I spotted your fire and thought, since it's already dark… I hope you don't mind.”
“Oh, it's fine.” He said, standing to get one of the blankets Toothless had taken from a ship for her. It wasn't really cold enough even at night for him to want one, but feeling his dragon grumble he pulled the other out for himself. “You're welcome to stay the night.”
Lleld was watching him with wide eyes as he handed over the blanket. “Thanks, Hiccup. I hate to ask but…?”
“Oh, this?” He pointed to his peg leg, “made it myself. Spring loaded, two types of 'foot’. I uh. I'm a bit of a blacksmith. I mean, I was , until a year or so ago.”
“It looks really impressive,” Lleld commented, “By far the best I've ever seen.” She commented as she took the blanket. For a few moments they sat in companionable silence. After a bit she spoke again. “I was thinking, if you need a place to stay you could stay with me. My… partner… and I are staying with friends and really there's more than enough room.”
“No, I couldn't--” he tried, even as he felt Toothless agree with Lleld. His dragon wanted him somewhere where it wouldn't rain, and where he could eat human food, apparently.
“I insist. They wouldn't mind in the slightest, really. In fact, they'd be insulted if I didn't offer.”
“At least say you'll come with me to say hello. That way Jekkanadar won't think I was out here all alone.”
“I'm sure your more than capable of taking care of yourself, but alright. Just to meet them.” He agreed, recognizing the glint in her eyes after many arguments with Astrid. There were some things even a Viking Chief couldn't win.
Toothless made sure to wake before Hiccup in the morning, easily gaining control over their shared form while the other slept. He knew Hiccup was hesitant to leave this small nest they'd made for themselves, but Toothless knew better. Neither dragons or humans were meant to be solitary. Staying with this fiery woman would be good for a time. Maybe they could find a lead on getting home, or at least on some dragons.
Seeing their temporary nestmate was still asleep Toothless took the time to carefully put on Hiccup's armor. It was warmer, but it was also harder to carry than the flimsy clothes they'd stolen. When the helmet was all that was left he dropped all the tools his clever human needed to make their new tail into it and wrapped it all up with the shirt. The pants he used to tie the half made tail into a tight bundle. Maybe these humans could be trusted to help put it on when it was finished? He wasn't sure, but Hiccup would know.
For now it was coming with them. He wouldn't leave it at this poorly guarded nest if they weren't going to be near enough to defend it. When he was done Toothless noticed the human watching him. He blinked at her.
“You're up early.” Lleld said, stretching, “And packing up it seems. Did you change your mind?”
Toothless nodded, since at least he had decided to take her up on her offer.
“Well, give me a few minutes and I guess we can be on our way.” When he didn't respond she let out a bit of a laugh, “not much of a morning person, are you?”
Naturally the dragon shook his head. It would have been nice to be able to speak to her, but Toothless didn't have the same gift of languages his human did. Oh, he could understand her just fine, but he was unsure of how to make those sounds. As a dragon there were a few he could almost sound out, but in this form he didn't want to risk it. He could end up hurting his person! Better to stay silent.
Luckily it seemed to be alright, since Lleld was quick enough to break camp and mount her pony. Toothless fell into easy step with the beast as it ambled on. He was thankful Hiccup had helped him with walking, since he couldn't risk scaring their new friend with his natural form. The large human nest was a short flight a way, but he was sure it would take them a few hours to get there. Hopefully Hiccup would stay sleeping till then.
Lleld had been surprised to wake up to see Hiccup all packed and ready. She supposed he had changed his mind during the night which saved time in the long run, since she hadn't planned on letting him come back to his little camp.
Oddly enough Hiccup had been silent for nearly the whole time it took to return to the estate. That wasn't to say he had been rude as he still acknowledged her, just strangely quiet when compared to the night before. She would have assumed he just wasn't a morning person except for one thing.
Just before they reached the outskirts of the city he had stopped suddenly and looked around, visibly s urprised by their surroundings. She'd heard him mutter something about being toothless before he started moving, once again as animated as he had been the night before. It certainly was strange behavior, and she found herself hoping if it happened again Jakkandar saw it next time. Her soultwin might have a better understanding of what she'd witnessed. Because naturally her mind saw the strange behavior and said 'dragonlord’ which was a bit much. Three new Dragonlords in under a decade? It hadn't happened since she herself had been young.
“Hello there!” Lleld called out once they reached the Vanadins’ house. It wasn't surprising that Kella was the first one out the door, Maylin right behind her. Naturally Kella went right for the pony, completely ignoring Hiccup. Maylin didn't, obviously focused completely on the stranger. Hiccup noticed and was surprisingly good natured about the harsh look he was subjected to.
“Hello. Uh. I'm Hiccup. It's… nice to meet you?” He stumbled a few times and his accent was still bad but it looked like he had been paying attention to her on the way back. His Cassorin was much improved from last night.
“You sound funny.” Kella pointed out.
Maylin definitely felt the same but she still scolded her sister, “Kella, that was rude!”
“It's fine. I'm from… far. New to Cassorin.” Hiccup replied easily.
“Really? Are you a trader? Would you like to come in?” Maylin began easily acting as if she didn't know that Hiccup had been living just outside the city for over a month. Lleld was impressed and happy to play along when the little minx dragged her into the charade. “You'll have to tell me where Lleld found you. Mama was getting worried when you didn't come back last night Lleld and I was just about to go to the city guards to see if anyone had seen you.”
“I'm sorry about that. I had been riding along the coast and lost track of time. Next thing I knew the sun had set and well. I ran into Hiccup here over by the standing stones. He was kind enough to share his camp.”
Hiccup for his part just stood there awkwardly, likely only following part of what was said. His shifting weight drew Maylin's attention again. Her gaze darted downwards to his prosthetic before meeting Lleld's, a silent question in them. A question the small dragonlord couldn't answer since she had the same question. By the time their silent exchange too place Hiccup had worked through was Lleld had said. “It wasn't a problem. Good company.”
“Yes, well all the same. You must come in and have lunch with us at the least. To thank you.” The younger woman stated clearly, gesturing to the door.
“Lunch would be good.” He readily agreed, likely unaware of what he had just unintentionally agreed to. Then again, he had backed up and brought his few meager belongs to perhaps he wasn't as unaware as Lleld thought. Well…. Not all of him, if she was right.
Jakkandar smiled in amusement as Kella pestered Hiccup with questions. The young man was taking it in good humor and was apparently answering honestly if he was any judge. “None of what he speaks of sounds like any land I have seen. Lleld, Raven?”
“Not familiar to me, either. Not even a bit.” Lleld answered first, “Yet I do not think he is lying.”
“I agree, he's not lying. I don't know of the land he's speaking of… but perhaps Maurynna would. It seems to be an island nation and she was a Captain.”
“Good thinking, Raven! Why, there's a few other Dragonlords who are more well traveled, too. One of them might have heard of this 'Berk’, since it most definitely isn't a part of the five nations.”
“Ah, but how to get the lad to agree?” Jakkandar mused.
“Well, we can just ask him.” Lleld grinned, leaning over the table. “So, Hiccup. Now that I've gotten you out of your camp, what is your plan?”
The youth swallowed his wine, sputtering a bit. “Well, I'm not to sure. I'd like to get home… but like I said, that storm must have blown me way off course. Unfortunately I don't recognize anything on those maps you were kind enough to share. So I guess I'll move on. Try another city, I suppose.”
“If you want, you can come with me.” Raven offered with no prompting. “I'm a horse trader, so I do a lot of traveling. I'd be happy to introduce you to some people who could help.”
“Really? T-that would be amazing!”
Raven laughed, “No problem at all. Oh, but I hope you don't mind a bit of a delay. I'm supposed to visit an old friend soon. I was going to head on to the next market after visiting her, but I'll come back here first.”
Hiccup nodded at that, a frown pulling at his lips, “I don't want to put you out--”
“Nonsense,” Jakkandar cut in, “Hiccup is more than welcome to come to Dragonskeep. Why, perhaps one of the--”
“Wait, did you say Dragonskeep ?”
Jakkandar paused, taken back by the sudden interest in their new friend. “Uh. Yes?” Did he just inadvertently given them away? “Do you know of it?”
“No… but with a name like that… are there dragons there? Maybe living nearby?”
“You could say that.” He hedged, “Why, are you interested in dragons?”
Hiccup laughed, a slightly hysterical sound. “You could say that. Man, this is great. I was starting to worry there weren't any dragons here.”
“He really must be from far away, then.” Jakkandar commented to the others.
“ Poor child. Imagine thinking you were the only one of your kind….”
“Lleld, we don't know for sure if he is a Dragonlord.” Jakkandar pointed out. Still his mate had a point. “I see. Yes, it is a good chance you'd see a dragon if you came to the keep. They're quite impressive, you know. Stories hardly do them justice.” Jakkandar began, “I take it you'll be coming with us then?”
“Yes, of course!” The young man replied quickly, “Oh man. Fishlegs is going to be so jealous.”
“Fishlegs?” Kella asked.
“He's a friend from back home. Big guy. Almost as dragon-crazy as me. Which is saying something since I'm kinda known for, well. Anything dragon related.”
“I like dragons, too!” Kella stated, “They're big, and pretty, and Maurynna is the prettiest!”
“Is she?” Hiccup said, ruffling the girl's hair and luckily not noticing how everyone else tensed. “I'd love to see her, then. What kind of dragon is she?”
“The northern kind.” Raven replied quickly before Kella could reveal too much.
Hiccup looked confused, “Right. Northern dragon.”
“I suppose he could be from a land like Jehanglan.” Lleld commented.
“Or he does not know there are different types of dragons. Most people don't.” Raven rightly pointed out. “You'll see when we get there.”
“Looking forward to it. So. When do we leave?”
It had been a long few weeks on the trail. Hiccup had never been so far from the ocean in his life. He could feel Toothless's unease at the distance between them and the sea as well. Neither were truly meant for the land. Or the sea, for that matter. But if they couldn't fly, Hiccup would still feel better being where he could see the ocean.
Not that he wasn't enjoying the trip. The friends he had made were good company, and he was getting better at riding a horse. That wasn't to say the horse was warming up to him, though. Or Toothless to the horse. His dragon definitely didn't like the idea of Hiccup riding anything but a dragon and if the Viking didn't know any better he'd suspect Toothless had told the horse that.
Honestly he agreed with Toothless, he'd much rather he riding dragonback. Or better yet, flying himself in their shared body. Unfortunately that wasn't an option at the moment. For one thing there was still the problem with the tailfin. They had the new one finished, but Hiccup still wasn't sure how to get it on the dragon tail when he was the dragon . For another, he wasn't exactly sure how his new friends would react. It was one thing to claim you liked dragons… and another to be completely fine with a beast the size of a ship appearing in your camp.
Still, maybe they'd be alright with it. They live in a place called Dragonskeep, right? It should be fine.
No. I don't trust them. Toothless grumbled.
Hiccup sighed, Buddy you don't trust anyone at first. His dragon snorted and then turned their attention to the children running towards them down the path. Children that were covered in fur? “Uhhh?”
“Oh, they're Kir .” Raven explained even as he waved to the children as they passed by.
“They have fur. Is that… normal for them? Not that it matters or anything, but…”
Jakkandar laughed, “Yes, it's quite normal. Some say they're the result of wild magic, and others say they come from a far away land. I'm not sure if anyone knows the real answer. But the kir people have lived in these mountains in harmony with the dragonkin ever since anyone can remember. The fur can be a bit off putting at first, but I assure you they're just like you or I.”
Hiccup flushed, “Sorry. I didn't mean to be rude.”
Lleld turned in her saddle, “Well, if you've never seen one before it can be quite the shock. I felt the same way when I saw my first merfolk. Why--”
Hiccup jerked around at the sound of the scream. Looking back towards the cliff they'd just passed he saw on of two of the children looking over the cliff. The third was nowhere in sight and he reacted with thinking, throwing himself out of the saddle and into the open air as he ignored the shouts behind him as his eyes scanned the open air below him.
“There! ” Toothless barked in his mind, spotting the little girl first. Hiccup angled his body in that direction, his false wings snapping open as he tried to speed up his glide. While he could feel Toothless's desire to take over, the dragon didn't push to change into his heavier form. It would be faster, but they both knew they'd lose precious seconds and momentum in order to change.
No, instead Hiccup used every trick he'd learned over the years until he was falling below the child. “ Now, bud!”
For a brief moment they hung there, weightless as the child plummeted towards the mist that allowed their strange transformation. Both knew if they'd timed it wrong the kid passing through them would kill the three of them. It was something they should be worried about but really it just added a level of excitement. Then the moment passed, they were solid once more. Toothless spread their wings wide seconds before the little girl hit their back. “ You're safe; we've got you.” Toothless rumbled at the girl. She let out a squeak, hands scrabbling for a grip.
“Is there any way to tell her to hold onto the saddle?” Hiccup asked.
“Saddle? Oh! Thank you, sir! I'll be sure to hold on tight!” She chirped, surprising both of them. Putting off how she heard him -- and had she heard Toothless, too? -- Hiccup started mapping a way back up to where the others were.
It would have been a simple matter of a few flaps, or even catching a thermal if it hadn't been for the tailfin. Like it or not, Toothless was now too big for the fin. The misalignment caused a lot of drag and the two of them could feel the strain in the leather straps as it was buffeted against in the harsh mountain wind.
Still, it held up remarkably well. Right up until they were a mere length away from the cliff side at least. And then it snapped clean off. Both of the girl and Toothless let out a shriek as they fell a short distance. Luckily Hiccup had expected this and snapped their forefeet out, claws scraping before digging in and holding them. He let out a sigh, glancing behind and seeing the girl was still holding on. The short fur covering her face was fluffed up and the Viking found himself thinking fondly of kittens and there went his mind trying to figure out how that works. He felt Toothless rolling their eyes as the dragon took back over and scaled the cliff.
“Well, as daring rescues go, I'd say that wasn't too bad, eh Toothless?” He commented as the girl slid off the saddle and went running to her friends. Noticing the strange looks he was getting Hiccup squared his shoulders, a weird feeling in this form that reminded him the saddle was now much too tight. “Uh. Hi. So uh. I might have forgotten I can turn into a dragon?”
Raven had been the first to notice what Hiccup was about to do, the two Dragonlords too caught up in seeing what had caused the scream. It didn't mean he was able to stop the young man from leaping out of his saddle, let alone off the cliff. His shout drew the attention of the others and all three were quick to rush over to the edge.
“Is he flying ?” Jakkandar asked incredulously as the three of them watched Hiccup glide through the air towards where the child was still falling.
“Yes.” Lleld answered tightly. “The fool! What good does it do to catch her? They'll both fall! Quick, back to the clearing. I'll see if I can catch them!”
The two Dragonlords took off and Raven knew he would be more use where he was, watching where the two rapidly shrinking figures so he could direct the small Dragonlord. It was a good thing he was watching, too. For he was the only one who saw Hiccup transform.
“Lleld! Wait, he's got her!” Raven shouted.
“Good that's one less person to catch--”
He shook his head, cutting off her mindvoice. “More like there's no one to catch. It turns out you were right, my friend.” Backing away from the edge now that he knew the danger was past he took the reins of Hiccup's horse and lead it and the horses back towards the bluff.
“He might be a dragon, but that doesn't mean he's out of danger.” Jakkandar said as way of greeting.
“Why? What do you mean?” Raven asked, coming to stand next to his friends to see if he could spot whatever it was that had caught the Dragonlords’ attention. Now that Hiccup had gained back some altitude it was easy enough to see that whatever kind of dragon Hiccup was it didn't look much like a northern dragon. Most noticeable from this angle was the much shorter neck and what appeared to be smaller wings along the tail. “What kind of dragon is that?”
“The crippled kind.” Lleld replied, face tight with worry. She pointed to the last set of wings, one side noticeably smaller than the other and a bright red. “That fake fin is going to come loose.”
Jakkandar shook his head, “I don't know. I've never seen a dragon like our friend, but it is possible that it is his Marking carrying over. Pretty impressive bit of handiwork, making a replacement. I think perhaps he outgrew it.”
“In that case he's been alone longer than we thought.” Lleld commented, giving an abortive lerch as the dragon in question let of a shriek and dropped, only to cling to the cliff. “Lost the fin. Pretty fast thinking.”
“He probably knew it was coming, if we could see it I'm sure he felt it. Come on, children. Back up, let's give our friend some room.” Jakkandar said as he guided the kir children away from the edge. The two young boys were obviously very worried about their friend and were more than a bit reluctant to allow the older Dragonlord direct them.
When Hiccup's wide draconian head cleared the lip of the drop Raven re-evaluated his opinion. Both children let out delighted shouts at the sight, more visibly excited about meeting a new kind of dragon then the adults. And Hiccup's dragon half was definitely nothing like Raven had ever seen before. He was roughly the size of Lleld's dragon, but where she was a fiery red Hiccup was black. Not the reflective black of some Raven had spied in the distance or the iridescent color of Mauriana's dragon. Hiccup was the black of night during a full storm, a color that seemed to just absorb all light. Except for his eyes, which were a brilliant emerald green.
As the strange Dragonlord pulled himself over the edge Raven couldn't help but notice how powerful those front legs were compared to the relatively delicate ones he was used to. “He's built low to the ground. Wingspan isn't as wide for the length of his body, either. But the extra fins… he's built for speed, I'd bet my favorite buckle on it.” Lleld spoke to them both.
Jakkandar nodded as Hiccup finally finished pulling himself over the edge. “ Scales are different, too. Not as jagged, more like a snake. I think it's a fair bet our friend here's a decent swimmer in this form, too.”
Raven could only agree to that as he moved to stand between Hiccup and the children. Even though he had spent the better part of a month riding with the man and had come to trust him he felt uneasy. The dragon before him looked dangerous in a way he wasn't used to associating with Dragonlords. Maybe I've just gotten too used to thinking of dragons as my friends , he mused.
Still there was something menising about how the the black dragon was watching them with it's slitted green eyes as the little girl slid off it's back and ran to them. Raven blinked, realizing that the girl must have been holding onto what looked to be the remains of some sort of saddle just as she reached them. “Who would dare put a saddle on a Dragonlord?” Lleld asked, mindvoice indigent.
Then the dragon that was Hiccup rolled it's shoulders and smiled , revealing a mouth lacking any teeth. “Uh. Hi. So uh. I might have forgotten to mention I can turn into a dragon?”
Lleld snorted out a laugh. “Yep. That's our Hiccup alright--”
To which the dragon seemed to take offense. The eyes narrowed as it mantled, lips peeling back again to reveal teeth this time as a low growl rumbled forth. “Hiccup is mine!”
Jakkandar stepped to the front, holding out his hands in appeasement. It was a risky move when facing a hostile dragon as Raven knew dragon fire was one of the few things that could hurt a Dragonlord. “Lleld didn't mean it like that. Just that we are friends. We have traveled together for a while, after all. We be friends with you, if you'd like--”
“Toothless! Don't be rude!” The dragon snorted, wings lowering as it quite obviously pouted. “Sorry, it's a Viking thing; first we try to kill you and then we become friends. ” Hiccup replied as black mist covered the dragon and left the lanky youth in it's place. “Kind of a tradition, as it were. I mean…. Most of my friends have probably tried to at least maim me once or twice…”
“Nope.” Hiccup replied easily enough. “Even Toothless and I didn't get along at first. To be fair he was attacking my village…”
“That was because of Green-Death-Queen!” Huffed what was apparently the dragon soul in Hiccup. Raven shared a look with the others, confirming they had heard it, too. Something he was pretty sure wasn't normal. “You shot me, anyway.”
“Oh, come on! How many times do I have to apologise for that?”
“Never. Not-sorry-happy-together-as-one. No regrets.”
“Wait…. How do you shoot yourself down?” Raven asked.
“Oh. Well. At the time we weren't like this.” Hiccup gestured to himself. “Actually… this only happened when we got here. Toothless and I were out exploring--” ”Avoiding the Nest” “Not avoiding the nest, er Berk. Just taking a break… and then this storm came out of nowhere. Next thing I know we're falling over land and I'm somehow inside Toothless . Which should probably be more concerning than it is…”
Later that night at camp Lleld asked the question that had been eating her up since Hiccup's daring rescue. “Hiccup, what you mentioned earlier… you mean to tell me you and Tannlaus were separate beings?”
“Well, yeah. Toothless is a nightfury, you know. Not to mention an alpha dragon. I'm just… me.”
“Not just. Hiccup is smartest nicest alpha.” The dragon soul put in. And wasn't that weird to have the dragon half openly talk to others. Even if she didn't understand what he meant by 'alpha’.
“Morgan is an alpha dragon .” Kemberaene, Lleld's own dragonsoul, spoke up, stirring for the first time this trip.
“So, a leader of sorts?”
“A natural born leader. Be careful humansoul; an Alpha has the power to order others to do their will.”
Lleld swallowed, taking the warning seriously. Hiccup's dragon side seemed much less agreeable than the boy they'd been traveling with. Toothless had felt powerful and dangerous; not like Hiccup. Then she blinked, realizing what the dragon had said. “Wait. Hiccup is an alpha?”
“Uh. He means chief. But I'm not rea--” “BEST CHIEF.” “Dad was better.”
“You're a chief?” She asked, more than a bit surprised that it had not come up before.
“That's everyone's reaction. Even after the whole 'bringing peace between dragons and humans’. I mean, I'm not much of a Viking really.”
“Well, I don't know much about Vikings, but what you did? Saving that little girl? That was definitely chief-like.”
“Definitely.” Raven agreed.
“I agree. Though I find it interesting that this storm somehow joined you together… usually with Dragonlords the souls are joined before birth.”
“Wait. This is actually a thing here?” Hiccup asked, obviously surprised.
Jakkandar coughed sheepishly, “Yes. You see… Lleld and I are actually Dragonlords; beings who hold the soul of both a human and a dragon.”
“I'm Lleld Kemberaene and this is my soultwin Jekkanadar Surael.” Lleld said, saving her soul
twin the trouble. “The second name is the name of our dragonsouls. Like yours would be Hiskt Tannlaus. We were born as Dragonlords, but live lives as truehumans. Then at some point our dragonsoul awakens. When that happens we gain the ability to change shapes, do dragon magic, and age as dragons do. I've never heard of someone not being born a dragonlord but becoming one. That must of have been one hell of a storm.”
Hiccup shrugged, “It wasn't like one I'd ever seen before. Toothless, either. You know you're going to have to show me what one of your dragons look like. I mean, obviously not like Toothless; you were definitely surprised. Understandable since he might be the last--”
“Not last. Others live far away in boring place. Being with Hiccup is better.” the other half cut in easily.
“Or not last… you know, you could have just said something before , Toothless! After all that time we spent looking for another nightfury! Even mom thinks you're the last!”
“Exactly. You would have told her. Don't want any viking but you to know.” Toothless sounded smug. Lleld knew she and her own dragonsoul got along quite well, but it was still unusual to hear one so casually conversing with it's humansoul. She supposed if they'd been separate beings until not long ago it made sense in a way. When Hiccup's eyes met hers again she knew she was looking at the dragon that shared his body even before it mindspoke them. “Hiccup has always been special to us dragons. He is what Vikings wrongly call a Dragon Master. As if a mere Viking could force any dragon to obey for long. No; we who have fought the corrupt Queen and the Taim Alpha know the truth. ”
“Which is?” Raven asked, leaning in.
Green eyes looked at her her friend as the dragon stretched Hiccup's lips into a parody of a smile. “He is dragonkin. Even as a hatchling Cloudjumper knew --”
“Wait so Cloudjumper is in on this?”
“Of course. He took your Dame to the Ice Alpha because you never remove a strange from a nest. But she is not a true dragonkin. Even the Green Death knew of you. She -- we -- hated your Viking nest all the more for it. What black magic they must have worked to turn a hatching into a human…” Toothless spoke, rage filling his voice. Lleld thought maybe this was how the truedragons had felt when they'd first come across a Dragonlord. The betrayal when the natural world had twisted something so important to them.
“Oh come on! Like Gothi would ever do anything like that. You like her--”
“Now I do.” The dragon allowed. “Whatever was done, she did to save you and for that she has my thanks. But she did do something. She and your sire both knew you were dragonkin, yet tried to make you into a dragon killer.”
“We were at war! You can't tell me the Green Death wasn't making you attack us-- kill us!”
“Of course. Which is why we hold no anger towards our humans. You ended it.”
“No, we ended it.”
“ You, Hiccup. You who were a dragon born a Viking. You brought us together. Because you could see clearly when all we saw was hate. It is why you are the Alpha of the nest. Not I.”
“I'm not a dragon, Toothless! I'm just Hiccup!”
“Was it not you who freed me from the corrupt Queen? And again from the tainted Alpha? Who received the blessing of the Ice Alpha? ”
“I'm human-- I --”
“Even your Dame said it. You have the soul of a dragon. Now you have the body of one, too.” The dragon finished, sounding pleased with himself.
“Did… you know this was going to happen?” Jakkandar asked, looking at them
“No, of course not.” Toothless easily answered. “But it feels right. You and I have been one since the day we met, Hiccup. Before that, maybe. I felt you in my heart; my other half. Why else would I have left my birth nest as a fledgling?”
“This… this is too much, Toothless! I mean, yes of course I love this! Being like this -- yes, alright? -- it feels amazing. Better than anything , like being whole, okay? I'll admit it, if we could undo it I wouldn't want to. But buddy! You're the Alpha ! I'm just Hiccup. Without you I've never been anything special--”
“ Wrong! Without YOU I am just a nightfury. Yes; my kind is rare, but we are not alphas. I am only alpha because you needed me to be.”
Lleld coughed feeling like they were listening to something that would be better discussed in private between the two halves. Yet she had the feeling that Toothless had tried before to make his point, only to be ignored. Hiccup, she had learned, had very obvious issues with his self worth. Something she had a feeling was going to to take lifetimes to fix. When the two looked at her a bit sheepishly she offered a smile, “Well, I'm pretty sure this isn't something that can be just undone.”
“She's right.” Jakkandar added, “Trying to separate a dragonsoul and humansoul in a Dragonlord will kill them both.”
“As for getting you home…” Raven trailed off, playing with his braid. “That storm. I think I saw you come out of it. I don't know a lot about magic, but there was no way that was a natural storm. It's almost like you came from nowhere…”
“You're not suggesting what I think you are, are you?” Lleld asked, feeling both excitement and dread as her friend nodded.
“What?” Hiccup asked, confused.
“Well,” she began, “we won't know for sure until we talk to Morgan the Seer. But what Raven is suggesting is that maybe you came from another realm. A… another land unreachable except by magic.”
The new Dragonlord groaned at that. “Astrid is going to kill me, then.”
“Not if she can't reach us. Besides, she'll be too busy watching the nest. While we explore. I like this.”
“Toothless! We have people that depend on us--”
“Humans who don't value you .” The dragon cut in. “The dragons know I am with you. What you started will continue, they will remember and your teachings will spread.”
“We could be wrong.” Lleld added, even though the more she thought about it the more right it sounded. She doubted Hiccup and Toothless would ever make it back to their homeland. But given what little she heard, maybe that was for the best. A land where dragons and humans were at war sounded terrible to her.
“With my luck, you're not wrong.” Hiccup moaned into his hands. “Toothless, you don't have to be so smug about this, you stupid dragon.”
“But Hiccup. Think of all the new places there are to explore. And new dragons to meet… ”
“I hate you so much, you stupid lizard. Stop trying to remind me why I'm not upset about something I really should be.” Hiccup replied with a grin on his face. “Idiot. We can't explore until that new fin is put on, and with the way you're growing you might already be too big for what I made …”
“You made that tail fin?” Jakkandar asked, “The one that broke off? Did you make that saddle, too?”
“Yeah. Long story. I brought the replacement, but I can't exactly put it on. Wasn't a problem before but now…. Not to mention I think we grew again. Toothless was never this big before. It's throwing all my measurements off… I might need some help with that.”
“Well. We'd be happy to help. But first let's get to Dragonskeep. I want to see the look on Mauriana's face when I come back with another Dragonlord.” Raven grinned. “I must be good luck or something.”
“Keep going on like that and the Lady will insist you move in permanently.” Lleld teased.
“What?” Hiccup asked, confused.
“It's a long story of our own.” Jakkandar said, stirring the fire. “But one I think you must hear. It'll probably answer quite a few questions you have. So let me tell you the tail of our trip to Jehanglan…”