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I love toothless and the dragon quote. This one has more intimidating feel.
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Raided - A Mericup Story

~ The Raid

Aibhlinn was gutting fish in the early morning fog with her family. It had been a terrific catch and the entire village had been working hard all night to prepare the fish for preservation. They had run out of salt already, so mum was building up the fire to smoke the rest of the fish.

The smoke smelled heavy in the still air, which covered the stink of the fish guts a little.

Struan and some of his friends had gone out to the forest to get more wood, mainly branches to set the fish on. Aibhlinn liked Struan. He was a strapping lad, he made her feel a little funny inside and she tended to giggle for no reason whenever he looked at her. She was almost of age to start walking out with him. She was hoping so hard he would ask her, she tried to be near him as much as she could. He looked at her sometimes with such a gentle look on his face. Her pretty brown braids were falling apart from all the work, but she would make herself look extra good after a good sleep and everyone would celebrate the phenomenal catch.

Aibhlinn looked around, wishing Struan would drop off some more branches for their fire. It was so foggy though, a thick pea soup fog that barely let her see her Da across the fire from her. The fire made the fog a sickly yellow around them them but opaque white away from the house.

Aibhlinn saw a heavy figure walking towards them; it took her a moment to realize she didn’t recognize the person. Then she noticed the sword.

Aibhlinn screamed.

“Vikings!” Da shouted as he knocked over a raider with the large salmon he had been about to gut.

“Run!” cried Mum as she bashed the Viking coming towards her with a flaming branch from the fire. Aibhlinn leapt forward to help with her little gutting knife.

“No! Make for the forest!” Mum cried as she fought the heavy fur covered Viking. The Viking tackled her. Mum fought back but they fell over into the fire. They both began to scream as their clothes and hair caught fire.

The girl turned; though her stomach clenched to think of running while her parents were in danger. A Viking with wild black hair stepped out of the fog. She flailed wildly at him with her little gutting knife and the fish in her hands. There was the sound of tearing fabric. He slapped her little knife away, threw her over his shoulder and ran.

Aibhlinn screamed.

“Aibhlinn!” cried her Father.

“Dada!” She wailed as she saw her father run through from behind and fall just as the fog swept around them.

She beat on the back of the Viking carrying her and fought with all her strength but she was much smaller then the hulking beast of a man. He threw her down and Aibhlinn saw stars as her head knocked into the rocks of the beach. She tried to hit or scramble away but hands grabbed her and held her limbs. She screamed for all she was worth as they cut away her dress in two efficient slices and slaves chains placed on her. They dragged her to the longboat and placed with the other captives.

Aibhlinn found herself next to Aideen, her best friend and Struan’s sister.

“Oh Aideen, what is to become of us?”

“I don’t know. I think they will sell us as slaves. Do you think anyone will rescue us?” said Aideen in a shaking voice.

“I don’t know. I-I saw Dada die, and Mum was on fire.” Aibhlinn wept.

Aideen undid their braids to cover themselves with their thigh-length hair. They held each other as best as they could, to try to comfort themselves, as they heard screams and shouts as the fighting continued.

# # #

“Your Majesties, please. You must do something. They killed my parents and most of the village, they stole my sister,” said the boy in anguish. He held out a bundle to the King, Queen and Princess.

Princess Merida stood and took the bundle from the boy as Queen Elinor came and held the boy. They sat on the edge of the dais and King Fergus clumped over and said, “We’ll do what we can. What is your name and where are you from, boy?”

“Struan, sire. I’m from Helmsdale.” He had walked from the coast to the inland capitol of the kingdom, it had taken a few days.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, exactly. There was a fog. We had a great catch of fish the day before. The biggest haul ever. We worked through the night. It was just getting light again. I had been sent out to get wood for smoking the fish. We’d run out of salt, you see. Then there was fighting and screaming. A few adults escaped into the fog and forest. They told us to hide. I wanted to fight, but we hid until it was over. It didn’t take long. So many dead, we buried them, but we know they took several girls and women.” He gestured to the bundle.

Merida unrolled the bundle, it was a girl’s dress sliced down the middle and arms, the sliced underwear fell to the floor.

Elinor and Fergus exchanged hard looks. Merida paled as she bent to pick up the underwear.

“They took my sister, Aideen and Aibhlinn, too.”

“Who is Aibhlinn, Struan?” Asked Elinor, noticing how the boy’s face changed at that name.

“She was the girl I liked. I hoped to marry her someday. Can’t you do something?” He pleaded.

“I don’t know,” rumbled Fergus. “We don’t know who did this other then Vikings. There are too many tribes and places they could have been taken to be sold as slaves.”

“I found this. Would this help?” Struan held out a ripped bit of fabric with a button on it. It showed an inverted truncated isosceles triangle intersected by a hooked T-handled skinning knife.

“It might. It just might.”

# # #

“By Caillech. Throwing back an invasion is easy, but how can we defend against these raids?” Fergus asked rhetorically as he paced back and forth in the upstairs sitting room. “These raids are too small and fast to gather our people to the defense. They are gone before we even know they are there.”

Queen Elinor was sitting at the table, going through a book, “This button doesn’t match anything we have on Vikings. This may be a new tribe trying to establish themselves.”

“And how does that help us?” asked Merida. She had laid out the cut dress, and it tore at her heart to see it on the table, since it was the same color as her own. She wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. She had dragged up the memories of geography Mum had taught her about the Vikings but she didn’t really know all that much about them.

“If this is a new tribe they would have come for the women for brides.” explained Elinor.

“Brides!? You mean marry your kidnapper!? That’s awful,” exclaimed Merida.

“Indeed, but when the choice is marry or die, which would you choose?” asked Elinor.

“I would rather fight and die.” Merida stated fiercely.

“You would, my dear lassie,” replied Fergus. “But not everyone is as brave and strong as you.”

“You are very brave. Do you think they didn’t try to fight?” said Elinor gesturing to the clothes on the table. “When Mor’du had you pinned to the ground and had his teeth on your head, would you not have chosen marriage, if given the chance?”

Merida bit her lip and looked away. She shivered as she remembered that. The roar ringing in her ears, and the hot, meaty smell of his breath. Her hand went to her throat where his slobber had dribbled. Her guts wound into a knot, she wasn’t sure all of the sudden. “Can we get them back?”

“I don’t know. They are just a collection of tribes, much like the clans, before I was raised as their king. We still have to find where this new tribe was and then try to negotiate, but if they came for wives, I don’t see them giving them up,” said Elinor.

“Oh,” said Merida disappointed. “What are we going to tell Struan?”

Elinor and Fergus shared a look.

“The truth,” said Fergus. “He deserves that.”
This is just an excuse to get Merida and Hiccup together. And the possible effects if they did.

Aibhlinn is pronounced i've-leen
Aileen is pronounced aye-leen

For some minor background material, you should read:
I Almost Lost You, Again fav.me/d54mnup
The Crowns of DunBroch:
Elinor fav.me/d558r3i
Merida fav.me/d57inif
Fergus fav.me/d5rbta8

Next: fav.me/d67azwp
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A Tangled Christmas Special

~ Flynn Rider and the Feral Princess
- Chapter 1

Flynn Rider slammed the shutters closed, finally safe from that stupid (okay, not so stupid) horse.

"Alone at last." Flynn said as he opened the satchel and pulled out the crown. He moved to a tall thin window and held it in the light, the jewels sparkling in the light. The three huge jewels that were most prominent on the crown were amazing. He found himself counting and categorizing all the lesser jewels that encrusted the crown as well. He had a buyer all ready and after ditching the Stabbington brothers he was going to take their cuts as well, more then enough for his island.

Soon enough though the excitement over the crown wore off and he looked around. The room was plain, there were a couple of chairs (the red one looked comfy enough), a wardrobe (he'd want to check that out for valuables), a spinning wheel (big deal), a neat little kitchen (he'd rummage through that, he was beginning to get hungry), a hole in the floor (he mentally kicked himself for not walking around the tower there must be stairs and an entrance on the back side), and yards and yards what what looked to be dirty blonde hair leading under a door under the stairs.

Flynn wandered over and gave some a tug. There as a gasp, a clank of chain and then a sweet angelic voice began to sing. He dropped the hair as it began to glow and backed away but tripped and landed on more, and found himself feeling a lot better.

The glow faded and now he was curious. He opened the door and found a girl, with chains on her wrists, huddled in the corner whimpering. She was pulling the hair around her trying to hide in it.

"It's okay, I won't hurt you." He crouched and held out his hand, but she whimpered and scrambled to a different corner, upsetting a small bucket that smelled of urine.

Eugene's heart was going out to this poor child. She looked so tiny and skinny, 12-14 years-old maybe. There had been a few children in the orphanage that had been taken from their parents who had been hurting them. What had happened to them had been heartbreaking. Trying to comfort their nightmares had been awful.

Parents should love their children, to hate and hurt their own children was wrong at the most fundamental level. A coal of anger began to glow in his belly, but first he knew he had to gain her trust a little so he could get her out of here. No one deserved this kind of life, no one!

Then he heard echoing steps from the hole in the floor. He closed the door, covered his mouth with a finger, she nodded and he dove under the girl's bed.

Soon the door creaked open again and he could see the hem of a red dress and some leather shoes walk over to the spill.

The shoes turned toward the corner of the mass of hair.

"You are a bad girl. A messy, disgusting girl. Why do I even bother taking care of you? Get over here and clean it up!"

Flynn felt his stomach clench as the girl scrambled over and began to lick up the urine from the floor. His anger was building. How dare that mother hurt her own child this way! But he didn't know if there was a father around here somewhere, he needed to be careful. He might want to pick up the bed and slam it down on the mother, but she could get the drop on him before he got out and then he wouldn't be able to get the girl out of here.

He had to wait just a little while and then he'd be able to get her out of here and sneak her into the orphanage, the headmistress had a heart as big as the kingdom and had been able to help some very hurt children, but they always had problems ever after. She would know how to help even this poor girl.

"Just to make sure you don't do that again, you are to get a punishment."

The girl was whimpering and moaning in fear. The mother was standing in front of the bed blocking him in and he could see the girl prostrate herself in front of the mother, hands flat on the ground between the mother's shoes, those huge green eyes full of fear looking right at him.

There was the sound of the leather belt coming down, the smack of it against the girl's bottom and a scream. "Imma bad girl, one."

Eugene had thought the mother would stop at 25 which was the law in the kingdom, but she kept going. He put his hands out as close as he dared and laid them in front of the girls hands. He was praying she would stop at 40 which was the tradition from the Bible, but she just kept going. He was weeping as they past 100, but he couldn't avert his eyes as the girl just kept looking at him, holding his heart with her eyes.
He was weak with relief when they stopped. Five hundred lashes, he could hardly believe it. He'd been lashed a few times, but now he was wondering how this scrap of a girl could survive this. He'd been in other kingdoms that actually killed people by lashing and it didn't take that many.

"Sing!"

The girl began to sing, and the hair glowed and he could see her body heal before his eyes.

"Very good, you took your punishment well. Good girl." The happiness in the girl's face ripped his heart out of his chest. It was so utterly twisted and wrong. Eugene had to help this girl!

"It's your 18th birthday tomorrow, and for taking your punishment so well ...I think I'll give you something nice, how about some hazelnut soup, your favorite?" The girl nodded and crawled up to the mother and stroked her leg like a cat.

Eugene knew what hazelnut soup was, he had eaten enough of it himself. The poorest of the poor eat that because there was nothing else, but dirt to eat! What did this mother feed her child that made hazelnut soup a treat? She was 18!? She looked 14 tops. How could a mother do that to her own child, twisting even the body of her child like that?

Burning hate was trying to consume him, but he knew he had to get the girl to safety first, no other consideration outweighed that. He would deal with the mother personally later. Soon he saw the mother climb down the ladder and clatter down the steps.

He cautiously crawled out from under the bed.

"Would you like to leave?"

She looked at him puzzled.

"I can take you away from here."

She didn't understand.

"If you come with me, there will be no more punishments," he gestured.

That got her attention. She held out her wrists with the shackles on them.

"I can get you out of them." Flynn the thief said confidently. They sat on the bed and he opened the satchel and put the crown to one side as he dug around for his lock picks.

The girl was looking at the crown and gingerly picked it up. Eugene was just about to take one of her hands to start working on the lock when she plopped the crown lopsidedly on her head and gave a babyish giggle.

Eugene's mouth dropped open. "Solara?"

The girl looked at him in wide-eyed wonder, then giggled again.

He knew exactly who this girl was. 18 years old, blonde hair, green eyes. How often had he stared at the mosaic in the square?

She was the Lost Princess.

He had found the Lost Princess, one of his childhood dreams.

He had take her to the palace, he had no choice, praying the guards didn't kill him before he could tell them who she was.

Tears filled his eyes, because he knew that she would never be normal, and could never be the princess she had been born to be.
Author’s Note: This story takes place in my Feral Princess AU, so I am going to post that story in here so the entire story is in one place for your convenience. I cleaned things up a bit with better grammar.
The premise is what if Gothel had been a truly heartless witch and locked the princess in the room under the stairs and treated her as merely a magical object and not a human being.
The story continues with some of the after effects and what Christmas might be like for the princess and the kingdom. I gave her some minor advantages over a typical worst case feral child. She would have heard the incantation every few days and would have learned rudimentary speech that way, and she had loving parents the first year who gave her love and affection which allowed her brain to develop enough. I also consider Rapunzel one of the more intelligent princesses so she had some extra brain power to work with.
Rapunzel, Solara in this story, is one of those poor, feral, closet children that show up on the news from time [link] to time [link] . Tragic beyond belief.
This story will be posted daily until Christmas Eve.
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~ Raided: Chapter 2: Bows

Fergus placed a bow on the dinner table by his wife’s plate.

“Fergus, no weapons on the table,” Queen Elinor said out of habit not looking up from the letter she was reading.

“You know lass, I keep wondering why you say that.”

“Oh, my mum always made us do that so we would take the time to talk instead of fiddle with our weapons,” said Elinor.

Fergus thought for a moment. “If it is so important to talk, why do you read so much at the table?”

Elinor blinked. She looked up and looked at her husband, daughter and sons. Then she looked back at the letter and folded it up and put it away. “You’re right, I should spend my time with you and not with some letters.”

“Have there been anymore raids?” asked Merida.

“Not so far this week, there have been three so far this summer but putting extra men to the coastal towns aren’t stopping them. We need to do something different.”

“Indeed, that’s why I got you this.” Fergus said, pointing to the bow.

“A-a bow for me?” Elinor asked amazed.

“Cut the wood myself, though I had the bowyer shape it. Merida decorated it.”

It was a beautiful slender bow with knots cut for decoration above and below the grip with a gilt DunBroch medallion on the upper limb. It was the same size as Merida’s latest bow.

“Oh dear, it’s beautiful, but I put down my bow when I became a lady.” Elinor said uncomfortably.

“I know, but now with the threats we’re facing, our kingdom needs a queen for the Highlands, not some continental fop. We need the men and women ready to fight and they need to see you as an example.” Fergus said emphatically.

Elinor looked at her husband. “That is very astute.”

Fergus smiled a little on one side, “I may not be a good king, but I know fighting and keeping up morale.”

“You are a good king and you are getting better. Thank you.” Fergus had been crashing the princess lessons and was listening. Elinor had been trying to help Fergus be a better king for a long time, but he never listened before.

Elinor stood, picked up the bow and hefted it.

Merida saw subtle changes come over her mum. She wasn’t seeing the concerned mother, or the regal queen, but a younger, wilder woman whose long brown hair flowed like a cape behind her.

“Shall we go loose a few arrows?” Merida asked a little tentatively. Mum loved her so much and doing the tapestry together was fun, but it was all indoors work. She liked being outdoors, but soon winter would come, the tapestry could wait for winter.

The smile that came over her mum made Merida’s heart bloom like a sunflower.

“Yes, let’s.”

# # #

After lunch, the royal family and their retainers went out to the archery field, the rich colors of the fall foliage warmed the cool air. Maudie was trying to keep the boys from hurting anyone, they were loosing arrows all willy-nilly, but their bows were not very strong.

Elinor fitted an arrow to her bow, set herself and loosed an arrow at the target. It struck at the edge of the red center.

“Not bad,” said Merida, to her Da as they stood just behind Elinor. She was quite impressed, her mum had done better then most of the suitors.

“Ach, my calluses are all wrong.” Elinor huffed. She fitted another arrow and made several subtle adjustments to her stance and grip. It had been a long time since she had held a bow, longer then her daughter had lived, but her muscles still remembered how to do it. This time the arrow landed dead center in the target.

With a smirk she drew another arrow and then she began to walk as Merida has done at her games. She loosed two more arrows at the neighboring targets, also striking them dead center.

“Much better,” smiled Elinor, as Merida stood there with her mouth hanging open. Fergus grinned knowingly; his wife had been a great archer and obviously still was.

“I wonder...” said Elinor quietly, as she fitted another arrow, it had been such a very long time.

Elinor drew to her cheek, sighted down the arrow to her target. She drew the calmness around her like a cloak, a warmth bloomed in her chest. There was just she, the bow and the target. She heard nothing, yet could feel her heartbeat. Elinor willed the arrow to strike deep. She exhaled and as her heart rested between beats, she loosed.

The arrow bent under the force of the released bowstring. As it cleared the bow, the fletching caught the air and the arrow began to spin and stabilize. It flew down the field, caught the end of the previous arrow, and split it down its length, driving itself through the target to embed itself into the post holding up the target.

“What do you know? I can still do it,” murmered Elinor as she lowered her bow, with a small-satisfied smile.

Elinor jumped as Merida let out a loud squeal of delight.

“You can do that too!” squealed Merida, jumping up and down.

“Do what?” asked Elinor, not sure what her daughter was going on about.

“Oh, mum.” Merida rolled her eyes. “What you just did with that arrow? Didn’t you see me do that at the Games?” asked Merida.

Elinor looked away trying to remember, “All I remember was being so angry at you for disrupting everything, embarrassing the lords and myself.”

Merida rolled her eyes, lifted her own new bow, consentrated and after a long breath loosed, splitting her mum’s first off-center arrow. The arrow passed completely through the target, and landed in the field beyond.

Elinor looked at amazement at her daughter who was grinning back fit to break her face.

“What I want to know is, how do you two do that?” Asked Fergus, coming up to them, with his heavy bow.

“Well, I just concentrate on striking the target, the end of the arrow,” said Merida. Elinor nodded.

“No, not that. This.” Fergus raised his great bow, half again as long as the ones the women were hefting and much thicker. His arrow struck between the two previous arrows and stopped once the head entered the target.

He trooped to the target followed by the women and asked, “How do yours go in so deep; when mine, shot with a heavier bow, does not?”

The two women looked at each other and shrugged.

Fergus turned and pointed to one of his men. “Go get a breast plate from the armory, a good heavy one.” The man ran off.

“What are you getting at, Fergus?” asked the queen.

“First, I want to see if you can shoot through armor as well as a target. Second, I want to know if you can teach me to do it too.”

“Da, you taught me how to shoot. I thought you already knew but just didn’t bother. I usually don’t since it is a little tiring,” said Merida.

“No, I can’t do that. I thought nothing much of it since you are so good, but since both of you can I am wondering if it can be taught. It would be a significant advantage if all of our men could shoot like that.” said Fergus.

“Yes, indeed it would. Especially against the Vikings,” said Elinor, thoughtfully.

Soon the man arrived and Fergus propped the steel breastplate on the target with some arrows. Fergus and the women went back to the line.

“Let’s see what happens when I do it.” Fergus lifted his heavy bow and the arrow shattered against the armor with a ringing Thung!

After a grunt, he gestured to Elinor.

Elinor set herself, invoked the calmness and loosed her arrow, which penetrated to the fletching at the center of the armor. A heavy sound of the striking arrow echoed back.

Then Merida did the same just above her mother’s arrow.

“How do you do that?” Asked Fergus amazed.

“I just go all calm inside and really focus on shooting through the target,” said Elinor.

“Everything goes all quiet and I really want to have the arrow go through the target.” Merida said.

“Calm and shoot through. Quiet and really want it,” rumbled Fergus, who brought up his bow and tried again. He let out a long breath and loosed. This time the arrow glanced off the armor and wobbled into the field with a screech.

Elinor and Merida were in a huddle, talking about their feelings, calmness and a number of things Fergus just didn’t get.

“If you can reach a consensus maybe you can tell me what you are talking about,” grumbled Fergus.

“We’re trying. We are still working out the details. We’ve never talked about this before and we are still figuring out how to describe it to someone else. This might take a while,” said Elinor as they went back to their huddle.

# # #

Maudie was putting another plate of meat on the table. The men would doubtless be getting hungry, again. She’d been listening to the queen and the princess telling the men how to shoot an arrow like they did.

To her it sounded like something she understood. She had to go to that calm place all the time; what with the triplets driving her insane all the time.

There was a bow leaning against the table. She glanced around, and then ran her finger down it, wondering.

“Maudie!” Maudie nearly jumped out of her dress as the queen called her. “Something to drink, please.”

Maudie picked up a chalice of wine and rushed over to the queen.

“How are you supposed to be calm in the middle of a battle?” asked one of the men, and many of the others grumbled about that.

“Tsk. You never have to take care of the children. I have to go to the calm place all the time with the way the boys terrorize me or I’d die.” Maudie chided the man, who looked unconvinced.

“Children ain’t war,” the man commented.

Elinor and Merida exchanged a look.

“Maudie, come here, please.” The queen asked as she handed Merida the cup.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Maudie.

“Have you ever loosed an arrow before?”

“Tsk, me! Hardly.” Maudie blushed.

“Would you try, please?”

“Yes, ma’am,” The queen handed over her bow and gave her maid a few quiet instructions about how to hold it, and how to stand. Then asked her to go to that calm place the boys drive her to. Everyone could see her breathing calm. Her body began to relax, yet steadily held the drawn bow.

“Now see the arrow in the breastplate,” said the queen.

Maudie exhaled, the arrow released itself and punched a hand span into the shoulder of the armor.

“Yehoo!” shouted Merida, jumping up and down and spinning, while the men groaned.

“Well, isn’t that just grand,” grumbled Fergus.

Maudie looked like she couldn’t believe she even hit it.

“Thank you Maudie, you did really well,” said the queen, retrieving her bow from her maid.

Maudie giggled still unable to believe it.

# # #

Fergus took a drink from his tankard as he sat behind the archery range. The boys had rigged a shield as a sled and the dogs were dragging them toward the castle, Maudie in pursuit.

Elinor and Merida had been out of the range all day, trying to figure out how they shoot arrows so they could explain it to the men. Somehow, they had taught Maudie but not the men. Fergus was a little frustrated, this ability would provide a great advantage in battle, but somehow they needed to teach it to others.

Fergus was sitting nearby listening but mostly just shaking his head, he just didn’t understand. He had taught Merida to shoot but this was beyond anything he’d seen. It seemed so much like magic. He now knew that magic existed, with Mor’du, will ‘o the wisps, witches and spells that changed people into bears. He shivered a little at the memory of almost killing his own wife, as she was a bear.

He listened as Elinor had watched Merida and Merida had watched Elinor and they had talked about calm places, quiet places and other things he had no idea of. Now they were standing together, describing how they were placing their feet and the angle of their hips and Fergus put down his tankard.

They were talking and moving at the same time, not following but they were like mirrors of each other. It suddenly felt spooky, like the two women were one person or something. They loosed at precisely the same moment, the arrows flew together and intersected at the target. With a loud bang, they punched through the target and even shoved it back a pace, before it fell over.

“Oh, dear,” The two women said together, as they brought down their bows.

Fergus got up and stomped over to the two women. “Elinor, are you okay?”

The queen and princess turned together, but only Elinor spoke. “Yes, dear, I’m fine. But that was odd.” Merida's mouth moved though she said nothing out loud.

“In what way?” Fergus asked.

“I hit it harder then I expected.” Elinor was looking at him but her eyes were distant as Merida just stood there, though her mouth moved a little.

“You both hit it at the same time.” Fergus said cautiously.

“Really?” Said Elinor as Merida’s mouth moved silently.

“Yes. Why don't we take a break?” Fergus suggested, trying to gently snap them out of whatever it was that was happening to them.

“Okay, that sounds good. I am getting tired.” Elinor agreed as Merida nodded.

“Merida, go help Maudie to pick up the tankards please.”

“Sure, Da.” Merida shook herself and hurried off, her hair flouncing.

Fergus just watched them for the rest of the evening, but they seemed fine.

###

“Merida, I’m going to have to cancel princess lessons today,” said Elinor as Merida came into the Great Hall the next morning.

“Ah, yes, mum. Thank you,” said Merida distracted. Her arm was hurting rather a lot today. She was walking carefully and not moving her arm to keep the pain from shooting from her elbow and up her neck.

She winced as she grabbed the chair by habit to try to pull back the chair but it hurt too much. She used her other hand to move the chair and then began to rub her shoulder as she sat.

“Are you hurting too?” asked Elinor.

“Yes. It feels like arrows are lodged in my arm and shoulder and neck.”

“I know I feel it too. I wonder if it has something to do with how we shoot.”

“Here, let me help.” Piped up Fergus, who came around and began massaging Elinor’s arm and shoulder. His wife squirmed under the ministrations. “I’ll do you next, Merida. By the way, how did you sleep?”

“I slept like a log. I can’t remember when I’ve slept so hard.” said Merida.

“You did too dear. You hardly moved all night.” said Fergus to Elinor who nodded back.
Author’s Note: As insane as this sounds it happens in real life. Okay not the arrows but there are plenty of stories of pair programmers that sync up like this and everyone calls it spooky. I have seen and done this in other situations. Most of us know those couples that finish each other’s sentences.
We see Merida show off her elective inertia power when she not only splits Wee’s arrow but punches all the way through to the beam holding the target up. Notice that was the only one to go so deep even her other arrows only penetrate a short distance. Having Elinor do it too is likely as she is described as a powerful archer.
Also I have placed a limitation of what Elinor and Merida can do. They are very powerful, especially synced up like they do.

Beginning: [link]
Next: [link]
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~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 12: Joinings

“Her hair is like a fully enflamed Monstrous Nightmare. Her eyes are blue like the clear sky after a blizzard. Her hands are strong and callused but her touch is gentle like pussywillows. She smelled of apple. Her skin is like warm cream. Her face is round like a bowl you cup in your hands before drinking in her wonderful goodness.” Hiccup had his hands cupped before him.

“And her lips.” Ruffnut cooed.

“H-her lips....” Hiccup licked his own.

“sNerk.” A slightly muffled laugh came from Tuffnut.

Hiccup snapped out his revere. He looked around at the other teens and dashed away into the darkness beyond the bonfire on the observation deck, blushing bright red.

“Aw, you had to ruin it, didn’t you.” Ruffnut complained hitting her brother.

“Stop it! Won’t you ever stop it?” shouted Astrid, rising and spinning her ax in her hand.

Everyone stared at her.

“Can’t we be nice to him for once? Can’t we stop hurting him?” Astrid asked.

“Hey, we’re being nice to him. He’s part of the gang. We’re only giving him a hard time.” said Snotlout.

“Oh, come on. He doesn’t see it that way. He’s always been make fun of and harassed. Does it feel any different to him? I don’t think so.” Astrid just watched Hiccup run off into the darkness and then she sighed.

“What’s wrong with you?” Tuffnut asked.

“I’m just not good enough.” Astrid said.

“What do you mean? You’re a great Viking.” Tuffnut said.

“I am a great Viking, but Hiccup is a great person. I should have stopped you before he ran off.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Hiccup cares about more then just the tribe. He stopped the war with the dragons because he cared about Toothless and the other dragons.” Astrid gave Stormfly a scratch on the nose. “You...we tormented him for being different. I stood by and let you. I never once defended him. If he wants to give his heart to Merida, I can’t blame him. I don’t deserve it.”

“Come on, you’ve already claimed him. Everyone saw how you kissed him when he came back around.”

“I may have claimed him, but that doesn’t mean anything to him. He used to crush on me, hard, but not anymore. He’s growing into a real man and I can’t compete with him.”

“Sure, you can. You could whip his butt if you wanted.” Ruffnut stated.

Astrid shook her head and laughed a quiet laugh. “Remember when all we ever wanted was to kill a dragon.” They nod. “We knew exactly how much status killing each kind of dragon was worth. We knew how many dragons Stoic and the others fought and how much status they have. Fishlegs, break it down for them.”

“Ah, you see, it was, and there’s the whole...” Fishlegs stuttered as he fiddled with the tavern puzzle in his hands.

Astrid picked up her ax and Fishlegs sighed.

“Okay. I’ll start with us. We came in riding dragons to fight the third biggest dragon we’ve ever heard of, which was wiping out our families.” Fishlegs said.

“What do you mean third biggest? That thing was huge. The Death wasn’t even mentioned in the Dragon Manual. What dragons are bigger then a Death?” Astrid asked.

“Jörmungandr. Nidhug” Fishlegs prompted.

Everyone just looked at each other. The world dragon, said to wrap completely around the world under the sea grasping its own tail. Foretold to die in battle at the hands of Thor at Ragnarök and Thor to die of his poison as the world broke. Nidhug was chewing at the roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, when finished, it would begin Ragnarök.

“We came in riding dragons, in front of the whole tribe, on it’s home turf. Snotlout was on it and made a joke as he was hitting it in the eye. The twins are next because of the insults and saving Snotlout. Astrid, you assisted so much, keeping us in the fight a lot longer then we deserved, getting Hiccup into the fight, and almost sacrificing yourself so the twins could get Snotlout out.”

“And you? You came up with the battle plan on the fly.” Astrid asked pointedly.

“Yeah, and figured out the noise thing, and tossed my hammer to Snotlout,” finished Fishlegs.

“So where does all that put us?” asked Astrid.

“We are up there with Spitelout and Stoic. Something that took their whole lives to do, we did in a single battle.” Said Fishlegs,

“And Hiccup?” asked Astrid.

Fishlegs looked uncomfortable. He was glad people were treating Hiccup like a regular person now, but he deserved so much more. Hiccup hadn’t made an issue of it, so he hadn’t either. Now it was going to come out. It had to.

“Come on Fishlegs. We already know he has a lot of status. Even if we don’t admit it out loud.” Astrid shot a look at Snotlout. “He asked us to go hunting the Boneknapper for Gobber and we went. Nobody wanted to, but we did anyway. Just because it was him asking.”

“If we start when we got involved. He tamed the training dragons, and flew us to the dragon’s nest. There he organized us to fight the Death while he rescued Toothless, which Stoic assisted on. Saved his girl.” Fishlegs glanced at Astrid, she looked away but didn’t deny it.

“He then fought the Death riding the most feared dragon we knew about. He defeated the Death on it’s home turf, in front of the whole village and lost his leg in the process.”

Tuffnut whistled as he understood how that added up, that was way more status then anyone ever had all in a single battle which just upped it even more.

“There’s one more thing.” Fishlegs began quietly, “Please, don’t tell Hiccup or anyone that we know this, but it is important. This happened before we got involved. My mum was in the kitchen of the Great Hall, she was minding the feast for after finals. She heard something that happened between Stoic and Hiccup.”

“What?” asked Ruffnut.

“Stoic disowned Hiccup as a Viking and a son before they left for the nest. He was Nithing.” Fishlegs whispered.

“What!? No!” Astrid jumped up.

Fishlegs nodded. “He did all that as a total outcast. He wasn’t even an outlaw. He didn’t have to do any of that. He could have, he should have, let everyone be wiped out by the Death, but he did it anyway.”

The twins just sat quietly as close together as they could be. Snotlout had his hands on his eyes. Astrid had tears running down her face as she turned to look into the darkness where Hiccup had disappeared. Finally she turned, staring into the fire. “Great Odin’s Ghost. I knew he had status, from Dragon training. He was doing so well, after all the blunders he made. I tried to save him from Toothless when I found them in the forest, but he saved me instead. I had just whacked him with my ax, to punish him for being so good at dragon training. For upstaging me, I was jealous of him. He could have done nothing and Toothless would have killed me. He’s not like any other Viking I’ve heard of. I can’t compete with that. After he woke up, I wanted him. I knew in my gut that he had massive status and I wanted that. All of us do. Like Gobber’s Boneknapper and his harem.”

Astrid looked at Ruffnut and she nodded. There was a tension among the women of the tribe. Everyone was being nice to Hiccup but there was a subtle competition for his favor. There was a certain respect for the existing relationship Astrid had established but she knew everyone wanted his babies. He was the most powerful Viking ever, the women knew it and wanted that strength to spread throughout the tribe via his babies.

“There is another thing,” began Astrid. “When we found Hiccup in the Highlands we followed a great pillar of smoke and found the castle he was staying at. I keep expecting him to say something about it but he hasn’t. Stoic hasn’t either and I don’t know why.”

“Say what about what?” asked Fishlegs.

Astrid sat down and wrapped her arms around her abdomen and began rocking back and forth. “That column of smoke was coming from the carcass of another Death.”

Ruffnut moaned and clutched herself.

Fishlegs lost his balance and fell over.

Snotlout’s jaw hit the floor and stayed there.

Tuffnut looked like he was hit by whale.

“He killed another Death?” Fishlegs whispered as he sat up.

Astrid nodded, “And he didn’t get hurt this time. He’s told us about that scratch on his arm when they shot him down. I know Hiccup well enough that if someone else did it or helped him he would tell us all about what they did.”

The circle of friends nodded at that. They heard their own stories when Hiccup was asked to tell about his story.

“He did it all alone. I know it.”

Astrid stood and turned to look over the dark ocean.

“Even if I won him as my husband against all the other women of the tribe. Even if he chained me as his slave bride. I know I wouldn’t be worthy to be his pet and he would care for me anyway. He deserves and needs someone better then all of us. He needs someone who knows how to love deeper then any of us.” Astrid turned away and strode into the night, as Stormfly flew to her favorite perch.

Everyone looked to Ruffnut, she just sighed and nodded.

“What is she talking about?” Asked Tuffnut.

“You idiot, even you must see it. Every time Hiccup walks through the village or sits in the Great Hall all the women show up in their best clothes or with plates of food or both. We are all subtly throwing ourselves at him, but he doesn’t even notice. Astrid and I keep some of them back by sitting next to him in the Great Hall.”

“You call what you do on the arm of his chair sitting!?” spouted Snotlout more then a little jealous of his little cousin. His face was getting hot just remembering some of what the girls did. He converted the shame he was feeling into aggression at the most convenient target.

Ruffnut stood and towered over the sitting Snotlout. “Yes, I do. I want his babies so bad it is all I can do to keep myself from ripping our clothes off in front of everyone and going for it.”

She rounded on her twin. “You think I go swimming every night for a bath? Half the women of the tribe are in there with me. The other half are banging their husbands half the night for the same reason. Desperately trying to cool off enough so we can sleep. A few nights ago a bunch of us were walking back and Hiccup walked by and said ‘Hi’, we turned around and walked back down to the harbor and jumped back in.”

“Even Gothi?” snarked Tuffnut.

“She beats me to the ocean every time. Now, if you’d excuse me, my ovaries just went off like a volcano from what we just learned. I need to cool off.” said Ruffnut as she turned and ran off unlacing her shirt.

Tuffnut looked at the others, Snotlout looked like a codfish, and Fishlegs was completely failing at looking inconspicuous, wanting to be anywhere but where he was.

“Girls are crazy.” There were nods all around.

# # #

Ruffnut sat on the dock at the harbor. Putting her double horned helmet down next to her.

“Hey, Ruffnut. You’re late. Had a hard time pealing yourself off Hiccup’s chair?” called Ingrid the Midwife from the water, next to Gothi. The others laughed.

“Ha. Ha.” replied Ruffnut, pulling off her boots. “I’m just trying to keep him safe from you barracudas.”

“We’re not barracudas, we’re mermaids.” Helga the Weaver called back, flipping and splashing Ruffnut.

“Thanks a lot.” Ruffnut spat back. Wiping water off herself.

“Sorry.” Helga said contritely. “It’s a warm night so it should dry quickly.”

“Not like they weren’t wet already.” grumbled Ruffnut as she stripped off her pants.

The two dozen women chuckled wickedly. They were all without husbands. All were widows who had lost their husbands to the sea or a dragon. They called themselves the Viking Widows League. With all the casualties the tribe had suffered it was more of a safe place as they mourned their husbands. And they also matched each other up with widowers.

“Where’s Astrid?” Ingrid asked looking around. Ruffnut and Astrid often came to be with the VWL, they acted like extra mothers to the girls, replacement mothers in Ruffnut’s case.

“You know. She went into the forest with her ax.”

“She didn’t need to go to the forest to polish her ax.” Helga smirked and the others giggled.

Ruffnut frowned, dropped her shirt and cannonballed into the water, splashing everyone. The cold water enveloped her hot body, she came up gasping.

“You know she’s not like that,” said Ruffnut pointedly.

Helga sighed, “No, she really does chop up those trees, even at night. It’s her way of burning the energy off.”

Ingrid swam over and began undoing Ruffnuts braids.

“Thanks.” Ruffnut said. She had to tread water to keep her head above water. She could eat like a dragon but it just didn’t add anything to her bones, she couldn’t float like the others. They were all full grown and fully figured. She was a toothpick with braids, which was the only way to tell her apart from her brother. She kept praying to Freya to have puberty show up. Ruffnut envied them rather a lot of their beauty, though right now the ability to float would be nice.

“So how did Hiccup’s diplomatic mission go?” Ingrid asked extra casually.

“Pretty bad. He was talking about the princess and he started waxing poetic.”

There were many small cries of despair from the women as they crowded around her.

“Ladies, ladies! Don’t panic! He hasn’t made any decision yet and there is still time for him and us.” called Ingrid pulling on the braid she was combing out for Ruffnut.

“Hey, easy on the hair. That’s true. He may still go with Astrid or one of you, if you catch his eye.” said Ruffnut.

“He could still choose you, too.” said Ingrid pointedly.

The ladies laughed as Ruffnut blushed, though the cold water made it fade quickly.

Ruffnut clung to a pylon of the dock as Ingrid washed her hair for her.

“So what is it with all of you? None of you used to care about Hiccup but now all of you want to marry him. Astrid’s claimed him.”

“Well, yeah. He’s got the most status out of everyone, by a whole lot. He is the most desirable Viking ever, way more then his father. He deserves the best wife we can get for him.” said Helga.

Gothi wrote a word with a wet finger on the pylon.

“Yeah, we didn’t respect him for a long time. We’re making up for that now. We treat him as just one of the gang.” said Ruffnut.

Ingrid cut in, “I’m sure he appreciates that but that isn’t all he deserves, but you and Astrid weren’t showing him proper respect, even with all you do in the Great Hall. He will be the next chief and deserves that respect and more, even now. The men defer to him already.”

“We do too. We went on that cockamamy search for the Boneknapper on his word,” said Ruffnut quietly. “The stupid thing is he doesn’t get it. He just wants to be ordinary. He flies off with Toothless so he can get some time alone. He’s hiding from the tribe, because we are giving him too much attention.”

The women all looked at each other, a few had their hands to their mouths.

“But we just want to show him we love him.” Helga said.

“I know, but he’s not like your typical Viking. I’ve seen him try with all his might to be a normal Viking but that isn’t him and we shouldn’t ask him to be anything other then himself.”

Gothi, Ingrid and Helga looked at each other. Gothi made a sign.

Ingrid said, “No, we shouldn’t. He is most powerful when he is himself. We all are.”

The women bobbed quietly in the water as gentle waves lapped at the shore.

Ruffnut spoke quietly to Helga, “Astrid is worried about that Scottish princess. She isn’t sure anymore if she is good enough for Hiccup.”

The women looked worriedly at each other. Astrid was one of the great Viking women, and she wasn’t even fully grown yet.

“She shouldn’t worry so much. She and Hiccup did some special things together. For all we try to entice Hiccup, she has a long head start on us.” said Helga.

“Still, it might be a good idea for him to married that princess and bring her here to live, we need her.” said Ingrid.

“What!?” asked Ruffnut, confused.

“Ruffnut, I know you are bad at math but even you must have noticed there are more boys your age then girls.”

“Well, yeah, so?”

“Here, let’s get out of the water, we’ve cooled down enough and you lips are turning blue.” said Ingrid.

The VWL and Ruffnut climbed out of the harbor, rinsed themselves at the cistern and started dressing.

“Our time of mourning is coming to a close,” Ingrid sighed. That was true, it was only a few weeks until the anniversary of the defeat of the Death and the end of the dragon war. So many of the tribe had died that day, the Death had stepped on an entire squad of women. “We need to choose husbands and get back to making babies, but there are more of them then there are of us. Berk needs women, Ruffnut, so we can have enough babies. Some fresh blood would be good too. It’s been a long time since we had someone from outside Berk marry into the tribe. Too many of our babes are weak because we don’t get outsiders here enough.” Ingrid said, and she should know, since she was one of the midwives. They started the march back up to the village. The women all combing out their hair as they walked to allow it to dry, they would braid it as they went to bed.

“Do you know why?”

“No. All we know for sure is that every few generations we need to bring in fresh women to stay strong. The last time was your grandparents generation, Stoic and Gobber’s mothers were slave brides from the Highlands. We may need to do that again, though the last time they were bought from slavers.”

Ruffnut tried thinking about that, but it was slow going, she was tired and cold.

“Okay, but what about Hic-?” asked Ruffnut.

“Shh!” Ingrid shushed Ruffnut sharply. “You know the rule. No mentioning ‘him’ after the bath, we need to sleep and don’t want to make another trip to the harbor.” said Ingrid as they reached the village level near the smithy.

“Hello ladies,” said Hiccup as he closed the smithy door for the night, after finishing a vicious little tavern puzzle. “Your hair looks different like that. Well, goodnight.” He waved and he walked up to his home.

The surprised women stood there for a moment in shock as their ovaries blew out. Then as one they turned and trooped back down to the harbor to try cooling off again.

# # #

“Dad, can we go fishing?” Hiccup asked. Stoic could see his son was carrying a couple of fishing poles.

“Sure.” said Stoic, glad for the excuse to get away for a few hours. The tribe brought him all their problems, he tried his best to solve them all but it was such constant work.

Brandishing their fishing poles the other Vikings left the two men alone.

Once they were deep in the forest, they sat on the edge of a stream and lay some casts into the rushing waters.

“So what is it you want to talk about?” Stoic asked. They had been getting closer lately, talking more. It was better compared to the relationship they had before, when they had merely lived in the same house, but they were still working out so many things.

“Mom.”

Stoic felt a chill run down his body, then he sighed. “I should have known this was coming at some point. Okay, what do you want to know?”

Hiccup shook his head. “I saw her die.”

“What?”

“I was in the cabbage crates. Mom stuffed me in there. You picked up Mom and took her to the Great Hall. Ingrid found me after the battle.”

“I remember Ingrid bringing you to me there.”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.” said Stoic putting a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“I told Queen Elinor.”

“Okay. Why?” Stoic asked slowly. The Scots were not friends, though Hiccup seemed to be changing that.

“She made me feel safe like Mom did.”

“Um, good.”

“Why didn’t you get married again?”

Stoic sighed. “I don’t know. I loved Val so very much. It hurt so much to lose her and the baby. I don’t want to feel that again.”

“Baby?”

“Oh, you never knew, she was pregnant. She had just figured it out and told me that night. We were going to tell you, but the dragon raid....” Stoic trailed off, looking into the the rushing water and fiddling with his pole.

“Oh. I understand, that explains some things.”

“What things?”

“Us.”

“Yeah, I guess it does. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I get it now.”

“So now what?” asked Stoic, wondering if this fishing trip was over.

Hiccup smiled, “We catch some fish, or would you rather search for trolls and their sock horde?”

Stoic blinked then smiled and laughed.

# # #

Gobber and the teens were sitting around the bonfire on the observation deck, like they did during dragon training, warming their food. Gobber would call them together, to tell stories and share advice. He cared about all the teens and added a certain kind of outside advice to what the teens would get at home. He acted as the grandparent or uncle none of the teens had. He meant well but they all took his advice with a grain, or rather, several large cups of salt. It wasn’t that his advice was bad, it just needed lots of thinking about, before you could consider using it.

Tonight was different though, Gobber was quiet. Everyone was.

Finally, Astrid asked, “Gobber, what’s going to happen tomorrow?”

Gobber sighed, “We are going to finish mourning the dead from the Battle of the Nest.”

“Yes, but what comes after that...to us?”

“Yeah, I was wondering if ye would be asking about that.” Gobber looked around the circle of teens and they were all looking at him. Fishlegs was extra jittery.

Gobber turned to Ruffnut and Tuffnut. “Having your mother’s entire squad squashed was a terrible blow. The tribe needs to get back to making babies. We lost a lot of people and there are not a lot of children to replace them.” Gobber said, and everyone nodded.

“And since more women were killed Stoic is going to go against tradition and have the women choose their mates directly.” Gobber shifted on his bench. Stoic, Spitelout, Gothi, Ingrid and himself had discussed this a few weeks ago, because the conditions were unprecedented. The tribe wasn’t in danger currently, but the effects of so many unmarried men could have long-term consequences. The teens needed people to marry too. Gobber knew that Stoic was uncomfortable with the thought of raiding for women. Their own mothers had been slave-wives. It was necessary but it wasn’t right, they knew that. It was a wonder their mothers had survived the dragons long enough to have children. They had never gotten used to the dragon raids and had been eaten.

“What about us? There aren’t enough girls.” Ruffnut said quietly.

Gobber looked from Ruffnut to Astrid, he could tell they were worried, but not many others could.

“No, there aren’t. That’s one of the things I wanted to talk about tonight. Astrid, Ruffnut, do you want to choose husbands tomorrow?”

Astrid and Ruffnut exchanged a look and then looked at Hiccup who shrunk down under those intent gazes.

“You do know that many men want you?” Gobber asked pointedly.

The girls nodded.

“Now, you boys have the same question to answer. Do you want to be chosen for marriage tomorrow?”

Hiccup, Tuffnut, Snotlout and Fishlegs just looked at Gobber, who could see how pale they were. “You, all of you,” he included the girls, “are some of the highest status Vikings we have ever had. You are all incredibly valuable to the tribe. You boys, the women all want you too. They want to have your babies. Yes, even you Fishlegs.” Fishlegs was spinning the fish on his stick so quickly it was almost a blur.

“When we started dragon training, I knew this group would be different.” He looked directly at Hiccup, and everyone glanced at him. “But I never expected to end up teaching legends. I am proud to know each and everyone one of ye.” Gobber stood, his eyes were bright in the firelight.

“You are all just barely of marriageable age. If you wish, we could exclude you, you are quite young to be getting married and starting families. I don’t need an answer right now, but tell Stoic by tomorrow morning.”

The teens all nodded, somberly.

Gobber nodded and walked away to give them time to think and talk if they must.

# # #

The sky above Berk was a spectacular red-orange as the sun set. Bright lines of light covered the sky. The whole island felt like a scared space.

Stoic dropped the torch into the wood to light the huge bonfire. The entire tribe was around them and they quieted as the flames built and leapt into the evening sky. Hiccup could see everyone dressed in their best furs.

“We lost a lot of people this day a year ago. ” Stoic began. “Family. Friends. Husbands. Wives. Children. They died in battle like true Vikings. They would be welcomed by Odin into Valhalla or Freya into Folkvangr to prepare for Ragnarök. We saw a preview of what Ragnarök will be like. Now we mourn them one last time. We will not forget them. We can’t.” Stoic sounded so broken on those last words as he dropped his head, a single tear dripped into Stoic’s beard and he sat on the grass.

A great wail went up as the tribe wept. Women pulled their hair, men beat their chests, dragons keened, and for a time it was safe to cry. Ruffnut and Tuffnut were holding onto each other weeping over their mother. Hiccup felt sad of all those who had died and he still missed Mom, but there were no tears inside him, he was still different from all the others and he wondered why.

After a long time the wailing and tears faded.

Stoic stood again. “It is time to continue our lives. We must marry and produce children to rebuild the tribes. We also know that there are not enough women to go around. So we are going to run counter to tradition. We will let the women choose. Then we will figure out what to do for those who remain. We will be going to the Althing, there perhaps, wives can be found. The teens have asked to be excluded for now as marriage prospects.” Stoic had the teens stand next to him. Snotlout was biting his lip real hard from nerves looking like he was going to barf. Fishlegs was twisting his fingers together. The twins were holding hands. Hiccup and Astrid just stood together.

Stoic gestured, “Ladies.”

There were a large number of longing looks at Hiccup and the other teens, but finally the VWL moved into the crowd and began choosing husbands. Sometimes the women were shy, most were direct, a couple of fist fights broke out. Stoic would wade in and brake them up, having the man choose, but the choices were often quite tense.

Stoic went back to the fire and was looking over the assemblage, then jerked in surprise as he felt someone take his hand. He noticed Ingrid beside him.

“Ah, Ingrid. What are you doing up here? Don’t you have a choice to make?” He gestured to the crowd.

“I’ve already made my choice.”

“Really, who?” asked Stoic, looking around.

Ingrid smiled gently as she ducked her blushing face and looked up through her lashes, “I choose you.”

Stoic looked away. “I won’t be able to love you, like I did Val.”

“And I won’t be able to love you like I did Defiant, but it would be... nice to feel some strong arms around me sometimes.” Ingrid looked wistful as she traced a pattern on his hand with a finger.

“It would be nice to have someone to wrap these strong arms around on cold nights.” Stoic said gently, looking at her.

“Hey, since when was he an option?” yelled Helga over the shoulder of the man she was hugging.

“Well, he’s not a teen and not married, so he was always an option, even if he didn’t believe it. I just noticed that no one else had. You’re not sorry are you?” called Ingrid back.

Helga pulled back, looked into her chosen’s eyes and smiled, “No, not sorry at all.” And they embraced again.

Stoic was smiling over the crowd. Gobber led the other widowers off to the Great Hall to drink themselves into insensibility. The intact families cheered and dragons warbled. He looked at Ingrid and frowned.

“What’s wrong?” Ingrid asked.

“I wasn’t expecting this.” Stoic turned to Hiccup. “You’re going to have to marry us.”

“Wha-ah. Me? Marry you?” Hiccup’s gast was extremely flabbered.

“You’re the son of the chief, you have the authority to marry people in my place. I certainly can’t marry us myself.”

“Ah-ha. Wha-what...do I do?” Hiccup felt so out of his depth that jumping off Toothless’ back at maximum altitude seemed like walking through a meadow.

“Here, I have notes for just this occasion.” Stoic handed Hiccup a scrap of paper.

Hiccup took the paper but just stood there as his Dad and new mother stood up straight in front of him.

“Just read it.” Stoic prompted.

“‘Say something nice about the couple,’” read Hiccup out loud.

A titter ran through the assemblage, and Hiccup blushed so hard he though his hair would burst into flame.
“Ah, you look nice, Dad, and um, Ingrid,” which was true they were dressed in their best furs.

Hiccup looked around, everyone had gentle smiles for him, they were not making fun of him, but it still felt intensely embarrassing, his heart was beating so hard. Taking on the Red Death had been almost relaxing in comparison to this.

Hiccup read through the rest of the ceremony, they exchanged swords and rings, and finished, “I declare you husband and wife. Be happy and may Frigga bless this union. You may kiss the bride.”

“Thanks son.” Stoic said gently then his kissed his bride thoroughly. There were many cheers and aw’s from the tribe.

Ingrid pulled Hiccup into a hug. “Thank you Hiccup. I’ll bring something good for dinner, okay?”

“Ah, sure.” said Hiccup uncertainly.

“I’ll take it from here,” said Stoic, retrieving his notes. “Who’s next?”

Helga waved her hand, so she and the twin’s father came up and were married.

Ruffnut and Tuffnut ran over and hugged their new mother.

Hiccup found Astrid’s hand in his. “Are you okay?” she asked. Hiccup was looking, not sad exactly but not anything really.

“I don’t know.”

“Me neither, can we go somewhere else?”

“Sure,” said Hiccup as Astrid quietly lead them away as Stoic married another couple.

Once they were clear of the village Astrid asked, “So, new mom. That good, right?”

“Yeah.”

“She’ll never even try to replace your real mom, I know that. She’s a good person.”

“Yeah.”

They stopped in her fighting ring in the forest and sat against the boulder. Hiccup knew the trees were heavily scared, but he could not see it in the darkness.

“Please, Hiccup, what’s wrong?”

Hiccup looked at her for a long time, took her hand and then touched his chest, “I don’t feel anything.”

“Well, I know I can’t feel like you do because I still have both of my parents but I bet its complicated.”

Hiccup shook his head. “No. It’s not complicated. Building a machine is complicated, but this.... I don’t know how anyone feels. I am not feeling anything. Not sad, not happy, not even scared anymore; just...nothing. Shouldn’t I feel something? Happiness for my Dad because he has someone. Betrayal because she is taking Mom’s place. All I could feel was terror for having to do that with no notice. When my heart stopped pounded, I was empty again. I couldn’t even cry to mourn Mom. I wish I was normal.” Hiccup closed his eyes and dropped his head against the rock.

Astrid didn’t know what to say. “It’s going to be okay.”

“I hope so. I have no idea were everything is going or what I should do. I just want to help.  Thank you for being here. You’re a good friend. I’m hoping it helps. I don’t know. How can you stand to be around me?”

“It’s pretty easy. I’m your friend. I wasn’t for a long time. You deserved better.”

“Thanks.”

“Sure, no problem.” said Astrid as she snuggled up next to Hiccup, “You want to stay at my place, I think it might be ...noisy at yours tonight.”

“That would be nice; better then the smithy. Thank you.” said Hiccup looking at her, as he put his arm around her, and put his head back again, drinking in the quiet of the forest.
Hiccup gets a new mom.

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- Chapter 2
~ Eugene Fitzherbert Frees the Feral Princess

Eugene worked his lock-picks into the shackles. He could feel the rust in the mechanism. How many years had it been since they were last opened?

Solara whimpered as his face screwed up in anger.

"It's okay. I'm sorry, it's just a bit rusty. I'll get you out in just a minute." Eugene said trying to reassure the Lost Princess and calm himself. Then the lock clicked and the shackled fell free.

Solara just stared at her free wrist for a long moment while Eugene got to work on the other. She started moving her free wrist around, a look of wonder on her face as her arm felt so weightless without the heavy shackle on it or having to move her other arm with it.

"There you go. You're finally free," said Eugene, smiling, as the other lock clicked open.

Solara turned and jumped around the room, her arms flailing wildly as she felt so free. Eugene smiled, as he caught the crown, that flew off her head. She was sure taking delight in her new found freedom.

Then she turned and his jaw dropped to his chest. She didn't have clothes on, but even that was the least of what he saw. She was eighteen years old and she looked like the skeleton of a little girl! He could clearly see her ribs and collar bones, the muscles of her arms and legs, even the veins and organs in her belly were outlined by her pale skin. How could the kidnapper treat the princess like this!? Worse than an animal. It was like she was starving the princess to death!

Solara stopped jumping, whimpered and backed herself into the corner opposite him as anger enflamed his eyes, covering herself with her hair.

Eugene was beginning to understand she was afraid of people being angry and after what he had seen the kidnapper do to her he could understand why.

"I'm sorry, it's okay. You need clothes. Do you know where the clothes are?" He plucked at his vest, not sure if she even knew the word for clothes.

Solara, with a scared look on her face, shook her head.

Eugene tried to smile, "It's okay, we'll find something."

Stuffing the crown and his tools back into his satchel he went to the main room and strode over to the wardrobe. He dug around in it for a little while. Why did women's clothes have to be so complicated? He finally chose what looked like a blue nightgown, it was much too big for the princess, but it would be simple enough to cover her.

Solara peeked out of her room as he ransacked the wardrobe, she padded up to him, and peered over his shoulder at what he was doing. Eugene shoved the dress at her, which she caught and said, "Here, put that on. I'm going to check the kitchen."

He strode over to the kitchen area and tried to see if there was any food handy. She needed to eat something. There were braids of onions, shallots and garlic; useless, he didn't have time to cook them. The bread he found was stale and hard, the cheese was moldy; both useless. The apples were good though, so he stuffed a few in his satchel.

Eugene turned and found Solara still standing there with the nightgown, gently stroking the soft fabric against her cheek. He sighed, "Princess, we have to hurry. The kidnapper may be back anytime. Please, put on the dress."

She just looked at him like she didn't understand. Bringing the Lost Princess home might earn him a pardon, but bringing her home naked would just get him killed.

He took the dress from her and gathered up the fabric and put it over her head. She just stood there, her arms inside the nightgown, her mouth open like a codfish, looking down at it, like it was the strangest thing ever. It was on backwards too.

"Okay, let's try that again," said Eugene apologetically, as he took off the nightgown and turned it around.

"Hands up, please," and he held up his hands up as he wanted her to do. She held up her arms too, he slipped the nightgown over her head, got her arms in the holes and he realized the hair was inside the nightgown now.

Eugene groaned as he took the nightgown off the princess again. This was taking too much time! He was much better at getting girls out of their clothes than into them, but this was getting ridiculous. The look she was giving him told him she was thinking the same thing.

"This has got to be the strangest thing I've ever done!" The thief declared. This time he had the princess step into the nightgown as he held it out for her and pulled it up so it covered her without the hair being under it.

"There, that's the way to do it." Eugene declared with some satisfaction, smiling, once it was on her.

It draped over her like a circus tent, but she was covered. She started flapping the overly-long sleeves like a bird. Solara smiled back, responding to his smile. She began to twist and enjoyed the feeling of the fabric moving around her legs.

"Come on, let's go. I'm going to take you to your parents." He spotted a cloak by the window, grabbed it and put it over her shoulders to keep her warm.

* * *

At the bottom of the stairs, the Lost Princess stopped. Her toes at the edge of the bright sunlight. It was like a line, one she had never known before and she was so scared.

"Come on. We have to get out of here." Eugene said anxiously, as he looked toward the exit to the canyon.

Solara could only look with pleading eyes toward the stranger who was taking her away from pain and darkness. What was light and love like?

Eugene looked around, he needed to get her moving, the kidnapper could show up at any time. She had somehow snuck into the royal nursery, stolen the baby Solara and vanished. He should be able to take her in a fight, but she seemed like a good sized woman. However, she was a lot younger then she was supposed to be. That threw magic into the mix and the was dangerous. The smart thing to do was get the princess away and safe first.

Eugene spotted a patch of dandelions. He carefully grabbed a few and went back to the door. "Look at this," he said and blew at one of them.

"Ooo," the princess cooed and stepped out of the tower and into the light. She squinted her eyes against the light as he handed her one of the flowers.

She blew on it and it was so wonderful to see the seeds fly. She chased after them until she felt grass under her feet, which was strange and new and tickled her feet. She lay down on the grass and rolled around.

"Princess, see, another one." Solara saw Eugene hold out another flower. She got up and reached for it, but he pulled it away slightly. She looked at him but there was a smile on his face. He was playing with her. Soon they were running through the exit and out into the world.

She stopped stunned. The trees were so big and beautiful. Everything was green and amazing. She felt a tickle on her cheek. Eugene had stroked her with a bright red flower, and he trotted off. She smiled and chased after him.

But she couldn't run very far. She was getting tired, she had no energy reserves in her body to speak of, the magic had been keeping her barely alive. She hadn't eaten in so long, there was hardly anything left for moving around. So she began to walk.

Eugene saw how tired she was looking and slowed. They were passing by some caves. He gave her the flower, there were plenty of others. She took it and stroked it against her lips and cheek.

Eugene took out a pair of apples and gave one to Solara. She just held it.
"You can eat it, it's okay." He encouraged her as he bit into his own apple. She watched him, she held up the apple to her lips but she couldn't get her mouth open enough to bite the apple. She hadn't opened her mouth that wide in a very long time and the tight muscles didn't let her.

"Here, let me cut that for you. That way you can eat it," said Eugene pulling out a knife.

Solara saw the knife and panicked. "Knife bad," she screamed and dashed into a nearby dark cave, a safe looking place to her. She curled up and rocked back and forth, afraid and so tired. She cried for a few minutes and then fell asleep.
Part 2 of Feral Rapunzel's First Christmas
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~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 13: The Althing

“So how will the Althing help with the woman problem and the raiding of Scotland?” asked Hiccup.

“Well, son. At the very least we would be able to buy slave wives for the men.” said Stoic.

“Dad, that’s not a good solution and doesn’t help with the Scots.”

“No, but it is an option and is a simple answer to the most pressing problem.” Stoic held up a hand to keep Hiccup from butting in. “But there should be unattached women from other tribes available that might consider marrying into the tribe.”

“Okay, but what about protecting the Scots?”

“I am not exactly sure. I don’t really have a good understanding of the law and other nations. That’s why I want to talk to the lawspeaker and introduce you to him as well.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. I don’t exactly have a plan yet. There are too many things I just don’t know about this situation, but we do know you have an incredible amount of status. I am hoping we can leverage that into doing something for the Scots. We are becoming quite rich now that we have the dragons on our side, just with the resources we have here. We can leverage our wealth and status to influence the laws, we should be able to protect the Scots that way. Especially if you marry that Scottish princess of yours. Son, you are going to have to tell everyone about the Green Death. I sent Astrid to go get evidence of it. We’ll leave for the Althing as soon as she is back.”

“Oh, okay.” Hiccup was looking a little wild around the eyes. He was glad all the women were married now, expect Astrid and Ruffnut, but Ruffnut was still here.

“Don’t worry, I set the twins to get evidence of the Red Death, so we better hurry up and tell everyone before they get back. We don’t want them being distracted learning about your increase in status.” said Stoic, standing.

“Oh boy.” said Hiccup running his hand through his hair, thinking about what he was going to tell everyone about the Green Death.

“Come on. It’ll be fun. It’s great to brag and you don’t even have to exaggerate.”

# # #

Astrid wobbled on the long log she had wedged between the teeth of the Green Death, trying to dislodge a tooth. Stoic had asked her to go get some evidence of the Death Hiccup had killed in Scotland, since she was the only one who knew where it was, besides Hiccup.

It hadn’t taken her long to find it even if it was still somewhat covered in snow. It was only just beginning to decompose on the sunlit side that melted during the day. She had already chopped free several of the largest scales she could reach and a little claw off a foot. She had to be careful not to overload Stormfly.

Astrid really wanted a tooth. They showed off the true size of the beast. The jaw of the Green Death had shattered when it had impacted the side of the mountain, there were a tooth that was loose but she still needed to break it free. She jumped as high as she could as she kept a hand on the jaw. She struggled to keep her balance as the whole head wobbled.

Something landed with a squish not far from her. She covered her nose and mouth as the smell of rotting meat slapped her throat. Stormfly flapped to drive the smell back a little.

“Thanks, Stormfly.” Astrid said as she regained her balance on the long thin log. Then she looked at the eye more closely. Liquid was quickly oozing from it but she could see something, embedded in the lens, an arrow.

Astrid took a step closer, further out on the log. As she realized what that arrow meant, the head shifted, she slipped and fell, catching the log between her legs. She yelped, the pain between her legs was incredible, and saw stars in her vision as she wrapped herself around the log to keep from falling more.

Then, a loud crack sounded behind her as the tooth broke free of the jaw.

“Loki’s codpiece,” gasped Astrid, as she, the log and the tooth crashed to the ground.
Stormfly came over and gave her groaning rider a nuzzle.

# # #

Stormfly was circling over Castle DunBroch. Astrid had gotten directions from Lord MacGuffin when she went there looking for Merida. A crowd was gathering in the big open field near the castle. Astrid still wasn’t exactly sure why she was here. Astrid had Stormfly land near them.

Astrid could see Merida, Fergus and Elinor come to the front of the crowd. She slipped off Stormfly and gasped a little at the pain that shot into her abdomen as her feet hit the ground. She wondered how badly she had hurt herself. She wouldn’t stay, she had to get home quickly anyway, she’d rest there. She picked up her ax, it would be comforting, but it was dull from all the chopping.

Astrid marched over, looking at Merida. Merida took a step forward and stood like a queen.

“Astrid.” Merida greeted her cordially but cautiously, she was armed after all.

“Merida, can we talk, privately?”

Astrid could see the princess was surprised.

“Um, of course. The castle?”

“Nah, just out there.” Astrid gestured to the open field.

Fergus subtly handed Merida his sword as Elinor shooed everyone back to work as the two girls walked deep into the field. Fergus watched from the edge of the field.

“You were there when Hiccup fought the Green Death, weren’t you?” Astrid said, but it wasn’t really a question.

“Yes.”

“What really happened?”

“What? You mean he hasn’t told you?” asked Merida.

“He’s said some things, but I just found out, not everything. Please, what happened?”

“Well, Toothless was feeling better. He was finally strong enough for sustained flight. Hiccup invited me to fly as we began the search of the Death. He flew us up high so I could touch the clouds.”

Astrid looked away in pain, that had been her special thing with Hiccup. Jealousy and anger roared in her heart but she needed the story.

“We flew to the Isle of Sky to start looking, and he spotted a large cave, that he said was the right size. Toothless shot a fireball into the cave to see and there were lots of dragons all over it. They started flying away, and then the Death came out and began to chase us. I shot it with what arrows I had, then we ducked into the blizzard. We were trying to shoot it but the blizzard was icing us up. Then we almost flew into its mouth.”

Merida paused for a breath. “We dove, we were going to lure it into following us into the ground. We were going to sacrifice ourselves to kill it.”

Astrid stopped walking and looked at Merida.

Merida shrugged “It was the only thing we could do. Then will ‘o the wisps appeared.”

“Will ‘o the wisps?”

“They are ...magical creatures, they lead you to your fate. They led us out of the dive and over that protrusion that gutted the Death and into a ravine that shielded us from the explosion.”

“Magical creatures...”

Merida gave her a look, “You ride a dragon.”

“Yeah.” She looked back at Stormfly.

“Astrid, what’s going on?” asked Merida.

“Stoic, Hiccup’s dad, sent me to get proof of Hiccup taking down the Green Death.” They began walking again. Merida could see the large tooth strapped across the back of Stormfly.

“Okay, but why are you here, we are a little out of the way?”

“You hit it.”

“I hit what?”

“The Green Death. You got it right in the eye with an arrow.”

“You came all this way to tell me that?”

The two girls walked several more steps.

“What does he see in you?” asked Astrid.

“I hope a friend, but then I am also princess.” Merida shrugged.

Astrid rolled her eyes, and she looked back at the king who was there at the edge of the field, she could see his crown sparkle in the sunlight.

“Do you love him?” asked Astrid quietly.

“What?”

“Do you love Hiccup?”

Merida sighed. “Ach, I don’t know. I do like him, I know that, but love.” She shrugged. “I thought he loved you.”

“I don’t know if he does. He’s never said it to me, I was wondering if he had to you.” Astrid said, but Merida only shook her head.

“All I know is that he was hurt and needed help.” Merida said.

“He said you shot him out of the sky on a dark night.”

“That too, but he was hurt much worse then that. Your tribe wasn’t kind to him.”

“No, we weren’t.” Astrid looked down.

“He spoke well of you.” Merida said kindly.

“Really? I don’t really deserve it. I ignored him most of the time. I beat him up because he was winning dragon training.”

“It showed him you cared.”

“Yeah.”

“Astrid, what is he trying to do about the raids?”

“I’m not sure. I know he talked to his dad about not going on a raid, but I don’t know of any alternative to deal with our baby problem. From what I know, some tribes raid for fun and profit.” Astrid licked her lips, “If I were you, you should assume that to stop the raids you’ll have to marry some influential Viking, but I have no idea who that would be. Stoic sent me to get evidence of him killing the Green Death to take to the Althing...” Astrid trailed off. She paused and turned away from the princess, spinning her ax in her hand, thinking hard.

“What?” asked Merida.

"Son of a half troll, rat eating, munge bucket!" Astrid began swinging her ax wildly.

“What?” Asked Merida with more concern, she had her sword out, ready to defend herself.

Astrid was bouncing with concern for Hiccup. “He’s done stupid and crazy, now he’s going to try insane. I gotta go. He needs what I have, if he wants to prove himself.”

“What?”

“Sorry. I have to go. I can’t be late with this. He’ll need those things more than anything.” Astrid ran back to Stormfly and took off.

# # #

“We’re here.” said Stoic as the longboat crunched into the soft gravel of the beach.

Stoic and Hiccup leapt over the side onto the beach, and stood waiting as another Viking approached them.

“Stoic, is that you?”

“Aye, Longbeard. It’s been a while. How have you been?”

“Fine, fine. Every year you miss the Althing we wonder if you’d been eaten by those dragons of yours.”

“Nope not yet. But we have some news this year that I want to bring up to the lawspeaker.”

“Oh really, What?”

Stoic gave him a look, but merely said, “This is my son, I need to introduce him and my new wife Ingrid around, and brought some iron for trading, among other things.”

Longbeard smiled, he liked getting the news first, but understood when people wanted to hold tight to it. “Alright, have it your way. You can setup over there,” The man with the beard that reached past his waist pointed. “Things will get going in a day or two.”

“Excellent. Thank you.” said Stoic.

# # #

Lifa was tired of all the same old people that came to their bread stall at the Althing. This was supposed to be a way for her to meet men, but mostly they only saw louts that were no fun to play with.

Lifa was helping her parents as usual. Papa was stoking the second oven as Mum was plucking loaves from the first oven.

She could see the Kobb field just across from the bakery, most of the men would go to brewer next door. She handed her customer his loaves and took the pennies in return and placed then in her apron.

Her ears perked up when she heard a voice say, “That bread smells wonderful after all that time on the longboat.” Lifa looked around, coming onto the end of the line was a very large man with a fur tunic and small helmet, he was acting like a boy so excited for the fresh bread. His face so was young and innocent looking. She wondered if he was the enforcer of the group, he didn’t have the look of the leader, but had the strength.

Several others were with him, a muscular boy with curly rams horns on his helmet made her hips soften. He must be the one in charge, he looked so surly but masterful. There were also two couples in the group, but she soon realized that one was a set of twins as they turned, there was no romance between them, just a sibling rivalry. The boy was cute, but to coarse for her liking.

The other couple was a couple. She could tell there was some romance there, even if they weren’t holding hands. The boy didn’t seem like much, though he had an odd metal leg. Lifa wondered if he had done something heroic to save the girl, because the girl seemed too strong for the boy with her spiky armor, but quite close to him for some reason.

Then something happened she didn’t expect. “Hey, Snotlout, get some for all of us.” said the kid with the metal leg.

“Aw, you want me to pay for all of us, now?” complained the one called Snotlout, Lifa thought that was a hideous name.

“Oh here you go,” said the armored girl as she tossed five coins to Snotlout and then turned to watch the game of Kobb being played out.

Things were suddenly shuffling themselves in Lifa’s head. She knew how these gangs of kids worked, but somehow that skinny kid with the missing leg was large and in charge of this group and the armored girl was the lieutenant, not the obvious leader. How odd.

Soon Snotlout and the big teen, who was bouncing with excitement, were next. “How much?” Snotlout asked.

“Five small loaves to the penny.”

Snotlout laid down the five coins. Lifa was surprised, most underlings would pocket a coin or two if they knew their boss didn’t know how much the bread cost.

“And five for me too.” said the big one laying down an extra penny.

“Relax Fishlegs, there’ll be plenty.”

“What kind of name was Fishlegs? That was a silly name.” Lifa thought to herself as she gathered the 30 small loaves.

“Thanks, babe.” said Snotlout with an easy smile. The two teens then moved off with filled arms. They all moved with an easy confidence only the most grizzled of warriors seemed to, but without the haunted look many warriors had.

Lifa kept an eye on the group since they were close to the stall. She kept finding herself playing with her hair whenever someone the small group looked toward her, though he didn’t seem to notice her.

Several Valhunds seemed to really like the skinny leader too, as they congregated around his legs and yipped for pats.

The one named Snotlout did notice her and that was good enough. She chatted with him when he came back for more with Fishlegs. She was going to have to find out more about the Hairy Hooligans. They were actually nice to her, which was quite refreshing.

Everyone cheered as the king was knocked over and then laughed as the victors of the Kobb game emptied their horns and fell over drunk.

# # #

# # #

Hiccup was looking at the the lines of people coming before the lawspeaker. Dad had said some new tribes were being recognized.
The Bear Slayers had just been recognized. Now the lawspeaker was inspecting another group. This one bothered Hiccup. They were standing in precise ranks, men and women in pairs. The men were reasonably well dressed with leather, fabric and fur, but the women were all dressed in rags, some barely dressed at all really, and it was hard to tear his eyes away. But it was obvious why they were dressed in rags, they were slaves, each man had a leash going to the collar of the woman next to him.
“Are those slave-wives?”
“Yes, but more like breeding stock.” Stoic rumbled in disapproval.
Hiccup noticed a pattern in how they were lined up. At the front were women with babies in their arms (boys then girls), then pregnant women—Hiccup was wondering how they had handled the arduous journey here—then women neither pregnant or with children, they were the smallest group.
The lawspeaker was moving slowly through the ranks talking to the men and women and examining the children and running his hand over the bellies of the pregnant women.
“Who is that guy?” asked Hiccup.
“That is the lawspeaker. He is inspecting the tribe to see if they meet the requirements for forming a tribe. From here it looks like they do, but barely.”
However Hiccup was close enough to see that the lawspeaker had an unpleasant and slightly desperate look on his face. He was looking carefully at each women and child seeming to look for something wrong with them. The women all looked tiny compared to the women from Berk. Many of them seemed thinner then Astrid and Ruffnut, though they looked healthy enough.
“Very well, you have met the requirements!” called the lawspeaker resignedly. “Vikings welcome the newest tribe! The Skivvy Scroungers! Raise your banner!”
Hiccup gasped as the banner was raised, it was a truncated triangle with a hooked knife. As cheers were raised for the tribe, Hiccup was wondering what to do. He had found the raiders who had gone to Scotland.

# # #

The tribe before them was wrapping up their introductions and grievances before the lawspeaker.  Stoic and the tribe were up next before the lawspeaker. The lawspeaker and some chiefs were sitting on a high spot in the bowl of the thingstead.

Stoic turned and signaled to Gobber. Hiccup saw Gobber throw some chemicals into their fire way over at their campsite, which raised a greenish blue smoke. The men with them carried the large box they had shipped in forward with them.

“The Althing recognizes Stoic the Vast.” called the lawspeaker lifting his stick of office. “It’s good to see you again.” the lawspeaker said as Stoic came close to shake arms. He paused for a moment looking into Stoic’s face. “You’ve seen some heavy things, Stoic.”

“Thank you. It is good to see you again too. Yes, I have seen heavy things, I have seen something of what Ragnarök will look like.”

“Really?” the lawspeaker’s eyebrows rose high on his forehead.

Stoic just nodded.

“I would like to introduce my son, if I may?”

“Of course.”

“This is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, my son! He is the mightiest Viking on life!” introduced Stoic, speaking to the crowd. There was a buzz of whispers at that. Hiccup felt uncomfortable as so many people looked and pointed at him. Valhunds were running excitedly through the crowd.

Stoic went to the large box and withdrew something bigger then he was.

“What’s so special about a whale bone?” BigEars called from the sidelines.

Stoic ignored him and dropped it in front of the lawspeaker.

“Is that a...tooth?” the lawspeaker asked rising to examine it.

“Aye, it is.” Stoic reached into the box and returned with a claw.

“A...claw? What kind of dragons do you fight on Berk, Nidhug himself!?”

“Hardly. I led my tribe to its destruction at the fangs of the Red Death. My son saved us.” Stoic threw down a red scale that were nearly as large as a shield.

“He also saved the Scots from the Green Death.” He threw down a green scale next to the red one.

“The Scots? Why did he help them?”

“Because it was the right thing to do. They shot him and his dragon out of the sky, then nursed him back to health. They were under attack by dragons and he helped them defend themselves. He didn’t have to do that. Then with the help of the Scottish Princess they fought the Green Death and won.”

Hiccup was trying to stand there quietly though he was blushing pretty hard. Dad had said he was going to brag about him but this was a bit much.

“But more then anything he ended the war with the dragons by discovering they can be trained.”

“Trained?” the lawspeaker asked, and that word was whispered throughout the crowd as a tidal wave.

Hiccup could see shadows on the ground. He looked up but the Sun was too dazzling, but he thought he could see something up there.

“Trained.” Stoic stated, “To not hunt and kill but to work together with humans.”

“How...” but the lawspeaker never did finish that particular sentence.

Blasts of Gronkle lava exploded on the ridge above the thingstead. Deadly Nadders swooped low over the crowd and laid fire down around the people. Monstrous Nightmares made streaks of fire along the beach. The Boneknapper roared and whipped the ocean into a froth.

“Enough! Stop it and settle down!” Hiccup shouted and the dragons with their riders perched on the ridge.

The crowd and the lawspeaker looked at the dragons and back to Hiccup with awe in their eyes. The Valhunds were going crazy.

After a long moment the lawspeaker gathered himself and went back to his seat. He understood what was happening. The show of force was extremely effective. He picked up his staff and waited patiently, he could show power as well, but it became obvious that Hiccup was quite content to stand there waiting as well.

Finally the lawspeaker asked, “What is it that you want?”

“I’d like the raids against Scotland to end.” Hiccup said simply.

Whispers ran through the crowd.

“That’s all?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t have the power to do that.”

“Oh.” said Hiccup disappointed. “Who does?”

“At the moment, no one does,” said the lawspeaker carefully, but he was watching Hiccup carefully.

“How do I find someone with that power?”

“You/ cannot, only all of us can,” he gestured to the assembled chiefs.

Hiccup shook his head. “I just want to protect my tribe and my friends in Scotland. For three hundred years there has been war with the dragons and I found a way to befriend them and end the war. I just want to stop the wars and the raids so no one has to be afraid of being kidnapped or killed. I don’t want any one to feel the loss of a loved one taken by raiders. I want everyone’s pain to end. Surely, there must be a way to accomplish that?” Hiccup asked passionately.

The chief next to the lawspeaker touched his hand and they whispered for a moment, then the one on the other side also made quiet comment.

“There is a way to do that.” the lawspeaker said.

“Really, how?” asked Hiccup eagerly.

“We need a king.”

“And who should be king?” asked Hiccup.

“I would be king!” shouted BigEars stepping forward. “With the strength of the Vikings and the power of these dragons, Vikings would rule the world!”

The lawspeaker shot BigEars a sidelong glance, then looking back to Hiccup asked, “What do you think, should BigEars be king?”

Hiccup kept his eyes on BigEars, he was close enough and dangerous enough to warrant close watching. Then Stoic stood between them.

“No, he should not.”

“Why?”

“He would bring war to the world.”

“So? War is good for Vikings, so that we may fill Valhalla.”

“We should have peace and friendship.”

“And who would even try to bring peace?” asked the lawspeaker.

Hiccup thought for a while. “I would.”

“You? You would be king?”

Hiccup stood straight and tall, “Yes. I would be king.”

“You?” sneered BigEars. “A runt like you, wants to be king?”

Stoic turned, flexing his hands, but Hiccup said, “No, I don’t want/ to be king, but I would rather be a king trying to bring peace then let you bring war, fire and death. And I will not/ let you use dragons to do that.” All the dragons put their heads down, few people noticed listening to the argument, but the lawspeaker saw.

“Not let me. I don’t see how a weak runt like you could stop me. I am a Viking, I am strong, the strong must rule.”

“What is it with you guys? You think how hard you can punch or how big a rock you can lift is strength. All you do is go around destroying things. You never make/ anything!”

“I would make an empire that would last a thousand years!”

“You don’t know how!”

The lawspeaker banged his staff. “Hiccup, would you be king?”

“Yes.”

“BigEars, do you challenge that?”

“Yes.”

“Hiccup, do you accept the challenge?”

“If I do?”

“Then there is a holmgang, trial by combat.”

“And if I don’t?”

“BigEars becomes king.”

Hiccup felt his dad’s hand on his shoulder.

“I accept the challenge.”

# # #

Merida was wandering the castle, looking for the boys. They had gotten away from Maudie again. She had just left the kitchens and was trying to think of the next most likely place for them to be.

She was coming up to a passage when she heard a sound she hadn’t heard for a while and saw a pale light ahead. She peaked around the corner, a will ‘o the wisp was floating in the middle of the corridor.

Merida could feel her senses enhance, as the adrenaline rushed into her blood. Things always seemed to get exciting when these magical creatures appeared. She came around the corner and the wisp beckoned her to follow, which she did after grabbing a torch. They led her into the depths of the castle and to the dungeons, which were empty at the moment. Fergus was a merciful king, he didn’t keep people in the dungeon for long.

The lines of wisps went into the large room that was central to all the cells. The last wisp was over the table in the middle of the room. As the last wisp disappeared Merida looked around but no other wisps appeared. She looked at the table and saw it was covered with chains and shackles. Merida licked her lip and looked around again, because she had no idea what it meant.
They make it to the Althing and things heat up.

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~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 07: Questions

Hiccup woke up to the sound of Toothless’ teeth extending, which made him sit up and look around really quickly. It was really early in the morning, a torch was guttering low on the wall by the kitchen. The windows were covered with wooden shudders and furs to keep out the cold but there were still drafts making the torch waver.

In front of Toothless were four young children. Three were redheads, Merida had introduced them as Harris, Hubert and Hammish, but he had no idea who was whom. Merida seemed to have no problem with it though.

There was another child, a little blonde girl about the same age as the boys. She had a halo of messy blonde hair, that told Hiccup that she must be related to Lord MacGuffin. He knew that Lord MacGuffin had some other children besides Kevin, his firstborn. There was a son about Hiccup’s age that he had seen, but hadn’t been introduced to. As well as a preteen girl, who he had seen rush up to her dad and given a big hug too, but disappeared once she had noticed Toothless.

This must be MacGuffin’s youngest. She had her thumb in her mouth and piece of dried fish in her other hand. They all had a little chunk of fish in their fists and all of them including Toothless looked a little guilty.

“Oh, it’s you again and you’ve brought a friend this time. You know you shouldn’t come sneaking up on people when they are asleep, especially when they are sleeping next to a dragon.” Hiccup chided quietly.

The boys tried to look as innocent as the girl was, but didn’t do half as good a job of it.

“You know your parents don’t want you close to Toothless. He really can be very dangerous, but you are safe enough if I am around ...and I am awake, alright?”

The children nodded.

“Toothless, do you want a little snack?” asked Hiccup.

Toothless nodded.

“Stick out your tongue.”

Toothless retracted his teeth and stuck out his tongue. The kids also stuck out their tongues as they placed their little offerings on Toothless’ tongue.

Then Toothless make quite the production of eating the treats making the kids smile in delight.

“Okay, back to bed with you.” Hiccup whispered and the children ran up the stairs to the bedrooms.

# # #

Merida was sitting with Kevin in the Great Hall, he was telling her of his part in saving her brothers, or rather, she was trying to drag the story out of him with grappling hooks. She had seen how close he was to her brothers and the dead dragons around him.

She had already talked to several others, including Maudie and Hunk. Maudie was blaming herself since the boys had gotten away from her, but Elinor wouldn’t hear of it. The boys always got into trouble and seemed able to escape any room they were placed in. Another witness had told how Maudie had brought down a dragon, though Hunk had finished it off. Maudie was closer to Merida’s heart then most people, having cared for her most of her life. Maudie had done well, under very trying circumstances.

A couple of days after the raid, after things were cleaned up, Hunk had come to the King to ask Maudie’s hand in marriage. Maudie didn’t have any other family, she was an orphan they had chosen as a maid after the last war. Fergus gladly gave his permission, and Merida and Elinor had gone to Merida’s room to squeal in delight. He hadn’t asked yet but it was only a matter of time.

“Come on, Kevin. Just tell me what happened, I know you were brave and strong. You cut off both heads of that dragon in one blow.”

Kevin made fussing sounds, but Merida could see that he was looking around the room nervously. Hiccup was sitting quietly by Toothless, sketching something into his notebook. Kevin had told a simple story of what he had done at the drunken celebration the night after the raid, but she knew that many details were missing.

“Here, let’s go for a walk.” Merida suggested.

Kevin nodded gratefully.

They pulled on boots and heavy cloaks and went outside. Workers were stacking stones to repair the pens and stables since it was too cold for anything else. Though the gate they could see other workers tipping the last of the dragon carcasses into a small ravine to get them out of sight. They waved to King Fergus who was starting to plod back. Hiccup said they would toss the dragons they killed in Berk into the sea, but the river was frozen so they had to improvise.

“So what really happened?” asked Merida.

“Oh, nothing much,” said Kevin, or at least that was the gist of what he was saying. Merida could sort of understand him now after weeks of being near him. Several other in the castle spoke like he did. He had a brother and two young sister. The the youngest seemed to disappear with her brothers rather often.

“Come on, stop that. It’s just us, you’re supposed to be trying to win my heart. You are allowed to brag a little, especially since I saw some of what you did.”

Kevin’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t deserve to win your heart. I have nothing to brag about. I was a coward.”

“No, you weren’t, and yes you do,” said Merida with some heat. “I know you were keeping dragons away from the sheep pens, I saw that.”

“I lost men to Nadder spines and the pens were breached.” Kevin said quietly. He had been in charge over a detachment of men to guard the sheep pens.

“I know, we lost a lot of people. Mum and I killed some of our own men when the dragons we killed dropped on them.” Merida shivered and it wasn’t from the cold. “But we are leaders and we fight for our people and our homes and our country. It never goes neatly, at least that is what Da says.” Merida had spent some time talking with her parents after the battle and all the mistakes she had made. Da had reassured her, but it was still hard to deal with.

“No, it doesn’t.” Kevin sighed. “I’m not sure of all that happened, so much was happening so quickly. I was just trying to drive off any dragon that got too close, but a Nadder can shoot those spines. I moved out of position to attack a Gronkle and that saved me from a spray of spines.”

“That was luck and a good thing too,” said Merida.

Kevin gave a weak smile. “When the pens were breached it was chaos. Dragons were everywhere. Then I heard the shout about the boys, your brothers. I could see them, then a Zippleback landed between us. I had to do something, It looked like it wanted to eat them, but the only thing I could think of was to run up its back and take a swing at it. I swung with everything I had. I was surprised that I got through both necks and not just one. It isn’t as tough as a Nadder leg. I was thrown and then a couple of dragons you and the Queen shot down crashed next to me on both sides. One of them landed on my sword and it took a second to free it and by that time the battle was over. Thanks to you and the Queen.”

“It took all of us working together to win that battle.” Merida said. It was something her Da told her and she was trying to believe it. She felt she had made a lot of mistakes and people had died because of her. She shivered again and not just from the cold.

Kevin stopped and turned to face her, then he enveloped her in his cloak. Merida felt his strong but gentle arms around her. “Yes, but you and your mum made all the difference.”

Merida looked into his warm eyes.

“Yeah, thanks,” and then she put her head on his chest and her arms around his stomach as they stood together for a while in a quiet place out of the wind behind the castle. Of all the suitors, she was beginning to rather like Kevin.

# # #

“Hiccup, I find I need to apologize to you. I didn’t trust you because you were a Viking. But you helped save my boys. I trust you now.” said Fergus seriously. He had been putting this off, but the discomfort he felt every time he saw Hiccup and his dragon was too much.

Fergus had been helping to clean up the battlefield. It had taken teams of horses to drag the bodies of the dragons away from the castle. They had saved the heads of the Zippleback Kevin had killed and were working on them to be stuffed for a special present for him.

Now it was evening and he was tired but this was something that a king should do.

“No, it’s okay. Viking don’t have the best reputation in the world from what I understand. Though we are not exactly a normal tribe either. We spent so much time and effort dealing with the dragons there wasn’t time for normal Viking pursuits,” explained Hiccup.

“Hm, normal Viking pursuits. Hiccup, we have a Viking problem. Some years ago we were invaded and we were able to throw them back. Over the summer there were a number of Viking raids on our eastern coast. Villages destroyed, people killed and girls taken. What can you tell me about that?”

Hiccup chewed his lips. “I don’t know very much, because we haven’t done those sorts of things for a long time. Occasionally, Dad has gone on trading missions, trading our iron for cloth, sheep and stuff.”

Hiccup shifted uncomfortably on his chair. “I do know that they have brought back slave wives sometimes. My grandmother was a slave wife and since my Dad talks so much like you do, I expect her to have been taken from here and then sold to us.”

“Oh, is she still alive?”

Hiccup shook his head. “We generally don’t grow very old in our village, dragons take care of that. You get old, you get slow and the dragons get you. We only have a couple of old people, who can still move fast enough to stay clear of the dragons in a fight.”

Hiccup had a chilling thought, he could get old like Gothi. What would that be like? The whole village getting old. No one dying in battle anymore. No one able to go to Valhalla anymore.

“Ah well. Hiccup we would like our people back. We’ve found some evidence of who has done this. Do you recognize it?” Fergus pulled a button and some fabric from his pocket and gave it to Hiccup.

Hiccup studied it for a moment. It showed an inverted truncated isosceles triangle intersected by a hooked T-handled skinning knife. “Sorry, but I don’t. I don’t know of many other tribes; we’re rather isolated.”

Fergus nodded. “Keep it. I have others,” he waved it off as Hiccup held it toward him.

Fergus sighed and sat next to Hiccup. After a while he said, “You’ve been spending a lot of time with my daughter.”

“Yeah.” Hiccup said cautiously, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable as the silence stretched out between them. He could see Fergus wanting to say something, but having difficulty.

“Would a marriage between you do anything about these raids?” Fergus blurted. It was an option he had to consider. He wanted Merida to have her freedom and to find love, but he had to find a way to protect his people. He was a king and that was his job. But these raids were too small and fast to defend against easily. A political marriage did have its points, and it would be nice if they liked each other.

“Wha, ah, um, I don’t know. I don’t think so. We are not a big tribe and it wouldn’t effect any of the other tribes, I think.” Hiccup was panicking a little, he didn’t feel ready for marriage just yet. The thought of explaining that to Astrid made his insides bind up into a knot.

“Oh, okay. I had to ask. I need to find a way to protect my people from those raids. This is the first time I’ve been this close to a Viking and not fighting for my life.”

“Yeah. I understand.” said Hiccup thoughtfully. Remembering how Astrid went from beating him up to trying to defend him from Toothless in an instant. Thinking how he would feel if someone took Astrid and Ruffnut.

“I don’t know what to do, but I hope I can find out when I get home.” But Hiccup’s insides were in a bind. Astrid would chop his head into tiny bits for marrying someone else. Though if it was part of a major alliance like this she might understand, and just maim him a little.

“Okay. It was worth a shot. Thank you,” said Fergus.

# # #

“Hiccup, are you okay?” asked Merida quietly as she sat between Kevin and Hiccup. Everyone was in the Great Hall and the minstrel was reciting one of the great epics. A bit of entertainment after yesterday’s memorial to the fallen. She had glanced over at Hiccup after the hero had received the call to adventure, her favorite part, and saw that he had a sad abstracted look on his face.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” he said after a tiny shake, then after a beat he put on a smile like he just remembered to look like he was supposed to be enjoying himself.

Merida put her hand on his and said, “Okay.”

She turned back to the minstrel but kept her hand on Hiccup’s because sometimes she had felt so alone and needed the touch of a human hand. Hiccup looked so lost and sad sometimes, it tore at her heart, she wanted to do something but wasn’t sure what.

# # #

“Hiccup, are you okay? You’re so cold all the time,” asked Merida gently, watching Hiccup carefully. They were up on top of the tower again, the evening sky painted the sky and clouds in reds and oranges. Merida started a fire on the corner of the slate platform that was piled with fire wood to light up the area around the castle for fighting dragons.

Hiccup glanced at her and then back at the sunset. “It’s winter. People tend to be cold in the wintertime.” scoffed Hiccup.

Merida paused for a moment. “No, you’re not.”

“Not what?” Hiccup didn't look at her. His breath streamed out in front of him.

“Please, stop it. You know what I asked about and you choose to lie about it. Please stop. I care about you and I know you are hurting.”

“I’ve got to check on Toothless.” Hiccup said turning away.

“Please, don’t. Please, don’t run away. You’re the one that’s hurt and I want to try making it better.” Merida pleaded.

Hiccup sighed and turned toward the princess again. “So where do you think I’m so hurt?”

Merida placed a hand on his chest and said simply, “Here.”

Merida could feel Hiccup’s breathing pause, his eyes widen and pupils dilate. She knew she had hit the mark.

“You don’t care about you own life in the slightest. The only reason you’re still alive is because of Toothless. You’ve done other reckless things besides letting dragons chase you, haven’t you?”

“How could you know that?” Hiccup asked in disbelief.

“I’ve been there myself. Before mum and I reconciled I was an emotional wreck. Doing Princess lessons were awful, the thought of becoming my mother was too soul-crushing to contemplate. On my days off, I would ride off to my glen to shoot arrows and out into the Highlands and do stupid reckless things, because I didn’t really care about going back home. I climbed the Crone’s Tooth, a 300 foot tall spire of rock, in a dress. I almost died on that climb and I didn’t care.”

Merida took his mittened hand. “There’s another thing too. You keep telling that story about fighting the Red Death. Da did that too about his fight with Mor’du. Da finally told Mum about how much that fight cost him not long after mum’s transformation. Da’s been suffering with it for most of my life. You can’t keep holding it in. Mum and I turned our suffering on each other and it was the most painful experience ever. It made Da try to kill Mum and I don’t want to see you suffer anymore. You are too good a person to hurt anyone else with this, but don’t hurt yourself either.”

Hiccup’s mouth was hanging open.

“I know you have no one to open up to in your tribe, but, maybe, you could open up to me. I’ll never tell anyone, I swear.” Merida said earnestly.

“Do you have any idea what you are asking of me?” Hiccup asked.

Merida nodded.

“I don’t know if I can.” Hiccup said.

“Try.” Merida asked quietly.

Hiccup was quiet for a time, but Merida just waited patiently. “I’ve seen how much your family loves you. You have something, I’ve only felt rarely, like when you yelled at me after the battle with the Monstrous Nightmare. You have no idea what it was like to grow up as me. I can’t afford to care. I was basically an outcast from my tribe. They tolerated my existence, but people liked smoked eel better then me. I’m sure that the only reason I’m not dead was that I was the chief’s only child. My dad used the threat of having to babysit me to get them to go on a dragon nest hunt. I was nothing to them. Now, people notice me, want to be around me, but no one cares about me. I’m alone surrounded by a crowd of people. I don’t have any connection to them at all. That’s why I go on these survey missions, so I don’t have to pretend for a while.”

“You don’t have to pretend with me.”

“No, I guess I don’t. You ...really do care about me?”

“Yes, I do,” said Merida firmly.

“Why?”

“You are a good person.”

“No, I’m not.” Hiccup shook his head.

“What you do shows me that you are.” Merida disagreed. “I am a bad girl. I turned my mum into a bear to keep from being auctioned off for marriage. You made friends with your most feared monster. You fought an even more terrible monster to save your tribe. I know love now, I didn’t before, because that is what broke the spell. You love so very deeply, and all I can do is open my heart to you but you have to open yours yourself.”

“I don’t remember how.” admitted Hiccup quietly.

Merida pulled him close. “That’s okay. You’re smart. You’ll figure it out.”

“Merida?” asked Hiccup quietly, looking up.

“Yes. Hiccup.”

“I don’t know if I can explain what it is like to be me to anyone so they can understand.”

“Why?”

“Because when I look around, I don’t see anyone like myself. I saw what you can do with your mother and I envy that so much, I want to hate you, but I can’t, because I know the terrible pain you went through to have that.”

Merida nodded.

“I never had that with anyone, except Toothless. My mother died when I was quite young. Dad was always disappointed in me, because I wasn’t the son he wanted. He even said I wasn’t his son.”

“Oh no.”

“That was after he found out about Toothless, but when I was getting ready to fight the Red Death he said he was proud of me. Though he’s never said that again. It’s nice to kiss Astrid, but she hasn’t said she loves me, and I don’t know if I could tell her that, because I am not sure if I know what love is. Watching your family, I think I am seeing you love each other.”

“We do love each other very deeply.” Merida said.

“I know, I can see that. But I’ve never had anything like that in my life until Toothless, but he’s a dragon not a human, and it isn’t the same.”

“So what was it like before.”

“I was an outcast. I was picked on but mostly ignored. I was everything a Viking shouldn’t be. Often I couldn’t even get negative attention. I was practically invisible, like a piece of furniture that was always there. Except that everything that I did messed things up and everyone hated me.”

“Oh, dear. Wasn’t anyone on your side?”

“Gobber tried; he talked dad into putting me in dragon training. For years I had dreamed of just getting into dragon training, but when I finally got my dream it was just after I realized I wouldn’t kill dragons.”

“Wouldn’t?”

“I won’t kill dragons because when I found Toothless in the woods, I saw in his eyes, myself. He was scared just like me.”

“Okay,” said Merida, finding an insight into just how big a heart Hiccup had.

“I took what I was learning as I befriended Toothless into the ring and became the best dragon fighter they had ever seen. Astrid was jealous, but she couldn't deny it. I was popular, people liked being around me, they cared about my opinions and wanted to be my friend. It felt amazingly good, though so new and different.”

“Good.”

Hiccup shook his head. “And then it came crashing down. They captured Toothless, Dad disowned me as his son. They took Toothless and practically the entire village to crush the dragon’s nest. I had lost my tribe, my father and my best friend and all I could do was look out to sea in the direction they went. Astrid broke me out of that and I went to the ring to get a dragon to go get Toothless. I was just going to take the Nightmare and see if I could get there. Then Astrid and the others showed up and so we saddled up all the training dragons and flew to the nest and got there just in time to save my dad.”

“Oh, good.”

“Yeah.” It came out sounding disappointed.

“What?”

Hiccup sighed, “This is the hard part. I went from nobody, to most popular dragon trainee ever to nobody in the course of a few weeks. When I lost everything, all I could feel was a slight disappointment.”

“That’s it?”

“Yup, my whole life was crashing down around my ears, and all I could do was stare in the direction they took my best friend. I know I am not like other people, and I don’t know how to be like them. Though I desperately want to be. They kept telling me all I had to do was change all this.” Hiccup gestured down his body.

“Hiccup, you just gestured at all of you?”

“Exactly. All I had to do was walk and talk and think like a Viking.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense.”

Hiccup began pacing. “I know! How do you tell your own dad that that is what I have been trying to do my whole life? Yet there I was at the top of the cliff watching dad take my only friend away from me, knowing he’d kill Toothless when he was done destroying the nest or trying too. I knew what dad was sailing into. The Death was a dragon he had no hope of defeating and he had emptied the village to battle it. I knew that no one was coming back. I watched them pass over the horizon and I just stood there, wondering if I could take that step forward to end the pain. Then Astrid was there, summing up what happened, but I wanted to scream at her what she was missing. No one was coming back, our tribe was now down to a bunch of underage kids, and old people. We were all dead, we’d never survive the winter like that. But Astrid got me thinking, if I could just free Toothless we could do something together. And so we battled the Death and won and saved the tribe.”

“Hiccup, I don’t understand something. How do you do it?”

“Do what?” said Hiccup neutrally.

“You sacrifice yourself so readily but you hold yourself so apart from everyone.”

“Well, yeah, I just don’t like being hurt all the time.”

“No, Hiccup. What I see is this. My mum was always there for me even when I didn’t see it. I finally saw it when she threw off the clans and battled Mor’du all by herself to save me. But more then that she loves the kingdom. She sacrificed so much of herself she almost lost who she was to be the queen our kingdom needed. We’re just a pack of unruly children compared to her. What I see in you is someone who loves incredibly deeply. You love Toothless enough to chase after him. You love your dad and tribe enough to defeat a terrible monster. You love dragons enough to train them to bring peace. I’ve never met someone with a heart as big as yours. Yet you have walls thicker then these protecting it and not letting anyone in. That’s no way to live.” Merida bopped her gloved hand on the battlements.

“Maybe. I just don’t know. I’ve been hurt so much that it was the only way to stop the pain.” Hiccup sat down with his back to the battlements.

“Hiccup, I don’t understand you so much of the time.” said Merida as she sat next to him.

“That is hardly a surprise. You’re a Scottish princess and I’m a Viking dragonrider,” said Hiccup.

Merida sighed, Hiccup kept doing that. “No, I mean you are unlike anyone I know. I know that stories about Viking are not exactly right, men tend to exaggerate. But you. You’re different. You say your dad’s name is Stoic, yet you actually are. I’ve never seen anyone like you. You have only the tiniest sparks of emotions. You taunt a dragon and have it chase you. You face down an entire clan of warriors with nothing but an injured dragon. And you never seem afraid. I see tenderness in your face as you tend Toothless. Do Vikings not feel emotion?”

“Of course we do, Astrid was jealous of me. Gobber cares deeply about us teens. Fishlegs is shy. Snotlout is full of bravado. The twins fight like cats and dogs.”

“I am not talking about them, I am talking about you. There are only two things that seem to let you feel, Toothless and your helmet.”

Hiccup froze, not even daring to breath, had he given too much away? But Merida respected him and cared about him. She was trying to get inside him but he didn’t think she would ever hurt him. Hiccup sighed, he knew he would never get the chance to tell this to anyone from Berk. But someone might as well know, and he could trust Merida, mainly because she didn't have access to his tribe. He took off his helmet and propped it on his knee.

“Okay. My helmet is special. My father gave it to me before my dragon training final, to protect me. It’s made of half of my mother’s breastplate, his is the other half. To keep her close.” He tapped it lightly.

Merida’s eyebrows shot up at that. That seemed like an odd way to remember someone. Also the size of his helmet showed she had been a substantial women, maybe even bigger then Maudie.

“Mom died when I was about five, I hardly remember her. I had nothing to remember her by. When a Viking dies they load a boat with the body and their things and burn it so they have everything they need in the afterlife. So this was a surprise, but I am glad to still have a connection back to her. But in the ring I had to throw it aside to prove to the Monstrous Nightmare that I was not like the other Vikings. To prove that I wanted peace between us, but dad freaked out and the whole thing went south.”

Hiccup paused to run his thumb along the edge of the helmet but Merida was watching him closely. “Then just before Snoggletog, It got knocked off as we were flying through a dragon mating migration. I let it fall into the ocean so I could get back to the village to find out what was going on, because I knew everyone would be worried. Toothless went out and found it himself though it took him days to do it. I thought I had lost him too.” Hiccup gave Toothless a pat on the side. Toothless rumbled sleepily back.

Merida looked at Hiccup for a while and then stood up and turned around, her hair waving around her. “I don’t understand you. Everything you say tells me you don’t care one way or the other what happens, yet your actions are even more confusing. You’ll risk your life to save the village that has been bullying you for your whole life.”

Merida plucked the helmet from his knee. “Yet you’ll easily throw away the one memento of your mother.”

She strode over to the fire and held it over the flames. “Do you care about anything, anything at all, or are you just a berserker?”

Hiccup had his eyes on the helmet. He licked his lips. “Please, don’t.” he said simply.

“Why?” Merida demanded, lowering it slightly.

“I need it.”

“For what?”

Hiccup bit his lip, “To remember.”

“So? Why don’t you care?”

“Because I have to be the big boy.” Hiccup said quietly.

Merida gasped. “What?”

Hiccup leaned forward. “I have to be the big boy. I wasn’t very old when mom died and they kept telling me that I needed to be a big boy to help my father. They had put everything of mom’s on the boat and I didn’t want mom to forget me so I put my little wooden Thor action figure on the boat so she could remember me in the afterlife. Big boys don’t cry or mope around! Big boys help! Big boys do the right thing, no matter how much it hurts! No matter how much their hearts get sliced into ribbons all the time, by everyone they know and thought loved them! Big boys never show weakness!” Hiccups voice was raw and loud, and his fists were balled up on his legs, as he leaned forward.

Merida could only stand there clutching the beloved helmet to her chest. Hiccup sat back looking exhausted, running a hand through his hair.

Merida slowly stepped forward so she was standing directly in front of Hiccup, who was just looking at her. She held up the helmet, “Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. You are more then a big boy. You are a man. The mightiest Viking on life,” and placed the helmet on his head.

He bit his lip.

“I’m so sorry.” Then she dropped onto his lap and wept into his shoulder. He was carrying a massive load on those slender shoulders and no one should have to carry that much, no one. But only he could put it down.

Hiccup put his arms around her and held her close, not sure of what to do with a crying girl. Astrid never cried and neither did Ruffnut. He didn’t know anyone, that wasn’t a baby, that cried, and certainly not as much as this Scottish Princess.
Merida tries to get Kevin MacGuffin to brag about himself.
Fergus asks about a solution to the Viking problem.
Hiccup reveals somethings about himself because Merida presses him.

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Raided: Chapter 15: The Wedding

The door shut behind Hiccup and the room went dark. He heard the bar slide into place, and his heart began to race again.

Elinor had told him that all he had to do was retrieve Merida from the dungeon during a mock raid. The idea seemed a bit odd, but it made a weird kind of sense, most of the interactions between the Viking and the Highlands had been raids and they were acknowledging that.

Hiccup was hoping that there wouldn’t be too many injuries. Elinor had confided in him that she was hoping this would also tire everyone so the new couple could have a quiet night together.

Elinor had just locked him into this dark room. Merida was in here somewhere, but how to find her. He waited as his eyes tried to adjust to the darkness. The slave chain on his belt clanked gently.

He started as he heard some rocks start rolling nearby. There was a thump and a window opened. There in the beam of sunlight was a white cocoon topped with wild red hair.

“Merida?” Hiccup whispered.

“Merida!” He shouted and the cocoon wiggled.

Another rock thudded and more light entered the room. The room was filled with a huge array of troughs, ropes, pulleys and his eyes widened at all the ballistas pointed at his bride. Their arms beginning to cock.

Hiccup turned and beat on the door, “Beard of Thor, what have you done!”

“Save her if you love her. I know you can,” came the reply. Hiccup looked around panicked. There were too many rolling rocks spreading through the room to stop them. His small knife wouldn’t be enough to cut many of the ropes, but cutting them might be wrong. It was like a huge version of one of Gobber’s tavern puzzles.

Hiccup pushed at some of the machinery but it was too solidly built and too heavy for him to move. He grabbed a counterweight and that stopped one of them, but he couldn’t reach all the others. He grabbed at the arrows but he couldn’t reach. He spun in place under Merida, looking for a solution. He looked down, then up and down again.

“Flames!” He hoped the obvious solution was the correct one.

There were ropes suspending Merida above the floor, but they were lost in the darkness as he searched for the ends to lower her.

He found boards left on the floor. He looked back to Merida and the machinery around her. Heavy rock balls falling to the ground counting down to the time of her death. He grabbed them up and placed them on the machinery and climbed in front of her, it placed him between her and some of the arrows but he could reach the ropes suspending her.

“I’m here, Merida. I am going to get you free.” Hiccup said holding her and the white cocoon wiggled a little. He started sawing through the ropes. As each one came free she dropped a little, but it was taking so much time as the machinery was tightening and rocks dropping.

He was down to the last rope, if he got it cut she would drop to the ground and be safe, that’s all that mattered. He wouldn’t have time to get out of the way. One ballista he could see easily was almost fully cocked and it would cut him in half.

“Merida. I love you.” He said quietly as the knife finally sawed through the final rope. Merida dropped free, the rope was under tension and quickly slithered into the ceiling Hiccup tried to jump after her but a heavy bump threw him onto the plank he was standing on. He could see all the ballista fully cock. Another heavy bump and he rolled as the ballista all fired into the space he and Merida had been occupying. The heavy arrows shattered against the far wall. Hiccup landed on Merida. Quickly he unwrapped her face.

“Merida, are you okay?” he asked as she spit out the gag.

“Yes. Oh yes. You did it. Thank you. I love you too.”

And they kissed with all their hearts.

# # #

Maudie blew a horn to signal the end of the melee. Banners flapped and drooped in the occasional gusty winds.

Queen Elinor pulled open the doors to the castle.

The clans and the tribes were almost done fighting. She found Fergus and Stoic still going at it. Not with swords and shields but with their fists, trading blow for blow on their bloodied faces. Surrounded in awe by the brutal forces they were trading.

“You know, I’m exhausted,” said Fergus as he heard the gates open.

“Yeah. Me too,” replied Stoic and they fell into each other’s arms and hugged.

They then supported each other to the dais set up on the other end of the field, forging a path between the two tired armies. They sat on their thrones.

Queen Elinor of Scotland walked the path in a stately elegant manner. Her face calm, she was as regal and majestic as she ever was and every one respected the power she was. It was a challenge to maintain that, knowing how her daughter would come behind her.

“Are you ready?” asked Hiccup, not looking at his new bride, deeply uncomfortable about the whole situation, she said she would explain later.

“I’m trying, but we are out of time.” Merida was taking deep breathes trying not to pant.

“I’m sorry. This wasn’t what I expected or anything.”

“I know. It’s okay. I’ll be fine. It was my idea. I didn’t think it would be quite that intense, though. I know how they feel now, and I never want anyone to feel this again.” She had had to convince him to lock the slave chains around her. The iron was slowly warming from her skin. She wanted to scratch her nose but she couldn’t, the shackles on her wrists kept them near her waist.

“Me neither, on either side. You are so brave.”

“Thank you. Let’s free them.”

“Okay.” Hiccup stepped into the light holding the leash that went to the iron collar around Merida’s neck. He took short slow steps so the shackles around her ankles wouldn’t trip her.

Merida was trying to maintain the calmness and serenity that she had used to stop the war between the clans that had nearly broken out in the throne room.

Merida wore the slave chain as the finest jewelry and her hair like royal robes. She had taken into herself all the serenity she could, though it wavered around the edges so much. Part of her was screaming for all she was worth. The Scots on one side, her people had fought and ceremonially lost and she could see that it didn’t sit well with some of them.

On the other side were the Viking tribes they had cheered and hooted as she was led out, but they were beginning to quiet as Hiccup glared at them to quell them and she maintained her majesty. She had stopped a war between the clans with a serene walk and mostly quiet words.

Soon the other Viking teens were there surrounding them. The boys ahead and the girls behind. Young MacGuffin and even MacIntosh soon joined them.

Her heart softened a bit for Wee who was being restrained by Hunk Dingwall and his father, with Hunk’s wife, her nurse maid Maudie trying to calm him.

Merida stopped and that forced Hiccup to stop as the chain came to the end. She turned and knelt before Wee, which gave her enough slack to reach out to her former suitor with her chained hands. Wee was fighting being held down by Hunk and his father.

“It’s okay, I do this for all of us.”

Wee struggled with all his might one last time, lifting the two men, straining with all his might, but they were too heavy and he collapsed.

“Please, stop fighting. It’s okay. I’ll be fine.” Merida pleaded, worried he would hurt himself. She looked into Wee’s eyes. He whined like a hurt dog as she stroked his brow. Wee dropped his head into the dirt and wept.

“My good wee lamb,” said Merida as she stood and continued on.

Merida and Hiccup mounted the stairs to the dais before the people. They stood before her father the king, Stoic and the other clan lords and tribal chieftains. Merida did not meet anyone’s eyes but turned before the crowd. Silence reigned.

Hiccup and Merida moved to the anvil that had been placed on the dais.

Merida knelt and placed the lock on the anvil.

Hiccup lifted a hammer and chisel.

“Merida Dunbruch and all Scotland! Be free!” Hiccup shouted and with a mighty blow from his hammer, shattered the lock to held the chains on his bride. The chains fell away and Merida was freed. Hiccup helped her to her feet.

Queen Elinor came up beside her with her new tartan, one that represented the new alliance.

Hiccup wrapped the tartan around her hips and across her chest and over her shoulder. Merida was Scotland for this ceremony. He then slung her quiver across her waist and handed her her bow.

“I am Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. Son of Stoic of the Hairy Hooligans. I am chief of chiefs of the Viking tribes. ” Hiccup announced as had been arranged.

“I am Merida. Firstborn of Clan DunBroch. I am a princess” She flung out her hands and looked up, closing her eyes. Just then a blast of wind hit her raising her hair and tartan, but she held her pose. She heard whispers of Freya and Morrigan, Norse and Scottish goddesses of both war and love. She left warm sunlight on her skin and face.

She opened her eyes.

Merida alone was hit with a thin blazing beam of sunlight. Her flowing hair glowed like a bonfire, her pale skin dazzled them all, her tartan streaming around her. She was like a goddess embodied.

The gust of wind had pushed the crowd and the momentum of it ran through the tightly packed assemblage forcing everyone to take a step the wave built until it forced the ones in the front ranks to their knees. The ones behind seeing them bend the knee thought it was part of the ceremony and bowed the knee as well the wave flowed backwards thru the crowd.

Everyone was kneeling to her. Hundreds of dragons took flight and circled the field, many of them emitting flares of flame.

Hiccup lifted the slave chains over his head.

“No more raids, no more slaves.” said Hiccup. “I will forge this last chain into something new. Not a sword, not a shield, but a plate that we may shared our food like brothers.”

The words flowed over the crowd. Scot and Viking looked at each other and then cheered.

Their families came up next to them. Fergus and Stoic handed their children swords which they placed on each other’s hips. Elinor and Ingrid handed rings to their children which they place on each other’s hands. The witch bound their hands together, and they jumped over the broom together, the witch giving Merida wink as she did.

With the wedding complete, the feast began!

# # #

It was the biggest wedding feast ever, but Struan didn’t care. The food would be ashes on his tongue. He was looking through the massive crowd hoping to find his sister or the girl he cared about.

Struan was walking down the line of slaves. He had had to work his way across the huge field filled with people to reach the line. King Hiccup had called for the slaves to line up so he could release them from their chains.

Struan had many bruises but he had defeated several Vikings in the melee.

Struan had started at the end and was working his way to the front looking for his sister and the girl he loved. He could see some of the slaves were pregnant and other carried children. Some were dressed well and others not so much.

He had seen a few slaves reunited with their families, but he had not found his own. He could hear Hiccup breaking the locks and Merida welcoming the slaves.

He came up to some that looked to have been dressed in discarded turnip sacks near the front of the line. A starved looking girl carrying a baby on her hip turned, idly looked around.

“Struan. Struan!” She waved.

He could not believe it. It was Aideen.

“Aideen.” He stumbled over to his sister and took her gently into his arms. He could hardly recognize her. Her hair was so short, and she was so thin. The heavy bronze collar around he neck made his heart burn with anger still. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I tried to do something.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay. You found me. We are together again.”

They wept together for several minutes as the line slowly moved. The baby began to cry because her mum was crying.

“Struan, this is Helga. She’s my baby.”

“Oh,” said Struan, his heart breaking some more. “Hi, Helga. I’m your Uncle Struan.”

Aideen looked around, bit her her lip and asked, “Mum? Da?”

Struan just shook his head, and the line moved forward a little more.

“Oh.”

“Aibhlinn?”

“Yes, she’s here.” Aideen said, her face lit up because it was something that was good, but the look faded. “I’m sorry, but they hurt her, they broke her. They broke all of us through her. She isn’t the same.” Aideen warned.

“I don’t care. I need to see her.”

“Come. She’s at the front of us, we want her to be freed first. I was at the end to make sure none were forgotten.” Aideen lead her to her front of the former slave brides of the Skivvy Scrounger tribe, where a thin girl was being supported by two others.

“Aibhlinn, look who found us. My brother Struan.”

Struan’s heart broke; Aibhlinn was almost skeletally thin and covered with scars. The heavy bronze collar fit so loosely around her neck, but it looked to be weighing so heavily on her. Then she lifted her head and looked at him and Struan’s heart broke all over again, her eyes seemed so empty.

Struan felt to his knees in front of her. “I’m so sorry. I went to King Fergus and begged his help. I didn’t know what else to do. I’m sorry I didn’t do more. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.”

“It’s okay.” Aibhlinn whispered.

“No, it isn’t.”

“It’s okay.”

“No, you’re not, but I’ll help you be okay again.” He said cupping her face making her look at him.

“Y-you care?” she stammered.

“Yes, I care. Aibhlinn, I love you.”

“You can’t. I’m bad. I’m ugly. I’m broken.”

“Yes. I can. I love you no matter what.”

“But...”

“No buts. I love you. I was going to ask to walk out with you on your birthday.”

“Really?” light began to return to those brown eyes.

“Really. Actually, I asked your father for your hand, he asked me to wait for your birthday and a proper walking out period.”

“Dada?” Aibhlinn asked, looking around.

“I’m sorry.” He shook his head.

“I knew. I saw Dada be speared and Mum fall into the fire.”

“Oh. I buried them properly for you.” He said trying to console her.

“Thank you.”

Then it was their turn before King Hiccup.

“Struan! Did you find her?” Hiccup asked. Merida was looking hopeful.

“Yes,” Struan smiled. “This is Aibhlinn, my beloved.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet.” said Merida, but her eyes were filled with compassion toward the thin girl.

“So this is the girl who started all this.” said Hiccup gesturing to the field.

“What?” asked Aibhlinn, her sunken, bloodshot eyes coming up.

“Struan came to us, asking for help to rescue you.” explained Merida.

“When they captured me they told me of your plight.” said Hiccup.

“We came up with this solution to save you and everyone.” said Merida.

“All this...For me?” asked Aibhlinn in a tiny voice.

“Yes, for you.” assured Hiccup.

Aibhlinn began sobbing uncontrollably. Merida, Aideen, Hiccup and Struan hugged her tight as she wept herself out.

“How? What? Why can you love me?”

“Because he loved you and came to us to help you.” said Hiccup gesturing to Struan. “Here, let me get this collar off you.”

Merida placed the bronze lock on the anvil, Hiccup placed a steel chisel on the hasp.

“Aibhlinn, be free!”

Hiccup struck with a heavy hammer, and shattering the lock. He put down his tools and took the collar from the girl’s throat.

Merida lifted her up, hugged her and said, “Welcome home. Aibhlinn.”

Aibhlinn was sobbing, hardly believing she was free.

“Aibhlinn,” said Hiccup considering the collar in his hand. “I will make this a part of my crown so we will always remember you.”

“Please, remember that she was brave. She was so brave.” said Aideen and the rest nodded too.

“And you are...?” asked Hiccup.

“This is Aideen, my sister.” said Struan.

“Please, we are all sisters now after what we have done for each other.” Aibhlinn said gesturing to the women in their tattered sackcloths. Light and fire had returned to her eyes.
“Princess, I would consider you my sister too, for what you did to free us.” Aibhlinn said shyly.

“I am most honored. I always wanted a sister.” smiled Merida.

“I guess we are going to have to hear your story, somehow I am not surprised that it is bigger then I thought. You are our special guests now.” said Hiccup.

“Maudie!” Merida called. “Please, these women are our special guests and they need to be well taken of.”

“Yes, mum.” Maudie said.

“But first let us free them.” Hiccup gestured to Aideen to take her place by the anvil.

“Aideen, be free!” The lock was broken.

“Welcome home, Aideen.”

“King Hiccup, would you merry us please? We’ve been through so much and we would like to be together now. I don’t want to lose him again.” asked Aibhlinn as she took hold of Struan.

“Ah, sure. Um, you look, hm...okay I guess....” began King Hiccup awkwardly, looking at the bruised and disheveled Struan and rag-covered Aibhlinn. Repeating the words of the ceremony that had been burned into his brain forever.

“They look beautiful,” corrected Queen Merida, giving her husband a nudge.

# # #

“So, now what?” asked Hiccup of Merida as they looked out over the remains of the party from atop the tower roof. The sun was setting and the stars were coming out. They had left because they were tired and things had been too much for Hiccup, he had needed some space and some quiet.

“Oh, they’ll be partying for days, drinking, telling outrageous stories, showing off and singing.” Said Merida, “I think I’ll scream if I hear another chorus of “The Song of Mor’du” though.”

Hiccup chuckled a bit, it was a song that was stuck in his head. “Fishlegs seems like he loves caber tossing. No, I mean, what about us? We’re married now and I don’t really know what to do about it or anything.”

“Oh. Well, I guess I could take you to my room and show you, but I think we can do that some other time. We should spend a bit more time getting to know each other, for real.”

“Good. I like you, and it’s good being with you.” Hiccup said awkwardly.

“Same here.” said Merida, taking his hand; a companionable silence enveloped them. They lay down on the roof to look at the stars.

“What was with that crazy deathtrap thing you were in?” Hiccup asked as they relaxed at the end of a very long day. They were finally together and alone and enjoying each other’s presence and that was more important then anything else.

“I needed to show you something.” Merida said.

“Oh, what?”

“What do you think?”

Hiccup thought for a moment “You trusted me to rescue you. You expected me to succeed. You believed in me.”

“Yes, and other things, too.”

Hiccup thought, but was rather tired. “I’m sorry, what other things?”

“To love as strongly as you do. I became a slave for a short time to know what they felt, and I don’t want anyone to feel that.”

“No.”

“That I can do hard things for your sake and the kingdom’s sake. I faced my biggest fears: helplessness, dependency, death, and lack of freedom. Being so completely helpless and dependent on someone else was very scary. Even believing that you would rescue me. I didn’t know if I was strong enough or brave enough for all this.”

“You just gestured to all of me.”

“Yes, I did,” and she snuggled close to him.

“You are incredibly brave.”

“Thank you.”

===

Hiccup had no idea how to be a king, and the Vikings had no idea what to do with a king. Merida knew how to be a good queen and ruler. It took some effort for Merida and Hiccup to get the point across to the Viking chiefs that she was a force to be reckoned with, and that she would protect Hiccup from their pettiness. It took a couple of years before Merida could go to a meeting without her bow, but the Viking tribes eventually got the idea that she was a force to be reckoned with.

Hiccup learned quickly, though he still took time to be with Toothless so he would have time to think, and occasionally would hammer something out in the smithy, when it didn’t feel like negotiations was getting them anywhere. One of Hiccup’s major duties was to continue finding and training new dragons and new dragonriders, finding good reliable people was the biggest issue. Hiccup and Merida had to fight to retain control of the dragons from time to time.

Some nations paid tribute, others prepared to fight, though invasion never came. Others attacked to forestall invasions they felt were coming or for the desire for their own dragons. Hiccup and Merida often fought for peace and justice and in time the world calmed and became a good place to live and their children ruled well, because they lived in a hard land.

The story of Aibhlinn of Helmsdale and her sisters was heard, and hearts were touched. Hiccup and Merida made crowns that incorporated the collars of Aibhlinn and Aideen. Their stories were written in the records of the kingdom and epics made and told so none would forget.

Struan took Aibhlinn and Aideen and many of the others to a new home far from the sea, and they founded a village and they were happy again. It took a long time to work through the pain they had in their lives but they focused on the love. They made it a good place, that was filled with kindness and understanding and love.

Fishlegs and Lifa got married and everyone on Berk loved the bread they baked. Snotlout had some trouble with all the girls vying for his attention, he did have a cool dragon, but he settled down in Berk with a woman that his parents decided who was good for him. The twins moved to Scotland to stay together after she took a liking to young MacIntosh. Hiccup and Merida gave Astrid their blessings once she fell for Kevin MacGuffin. Young Dingwall had impressed many women with his devotion to Merida and a wife was found for him.

Once Merida trained her own dragon it became easy for her to visit her family. More then once Merida and Elinor would talk about the power of their crowns. Merida had a special place to put hers so she could spend time with her children and the dragons.

Berk was a land as untamed as the Highlands, summers were short and winters long, but it was a good land, because the King and Queen loved each other.

The End
Happy ending time.
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~ Raided: A Mericcup Story: Chapter 10 : Back to Berk

Hiccup and Astrid glided into Berk. Hiccup was amazed as it looked like the whole village turned out as they came in. Everyone was shouting questions, and crowding around him. Astrid was  glaring at everyone as they dismounted. Hiccup was looking for his father, but so many women were so close to him, touching him. Astrid and Ruffnut elbowed their way right next to him as Stoic came barreling through the crowd.

“Hiccup, son!” called Stoic as he caught his son up in a hug. “You’re alright. What happened? When you didn’t come back in time we sent out search parties.”

“Oh, ah, good. Did anyone find the message I left at Nest 5?”

“Yes, but saying you went looking for it didn’t exactly help. I found him in Scotland.” grumbled Astrid.

“Scotland?” Whispers wandered through the crowd.

“I found the dragons feeding off Scotland and I helped them deal with the dragons.” said Hiccup.

“You didn’t teach them to train dragons, did you?” rumbled Stoic.

“No, not really. They had worked out how to fight dragons pretty well, though I gave them a few pointers.”

“Pointers?” Stoic asked.

“Could we talk privately, Dad?” asked Hiccup, looking at the crowd.

“Okay, everyone. I’m going to debrief my son. I want you to prepare a feast for his return, I’m sure he’ll have quite the story for us then.” Called Stoic. A few people grumbled but most of the women looked excited, as they ran off to prepare their best dishes for Hiccup. Astrid was frowning hard at the retreating backs of the women.

Hiccup grabbed Astrid’s hand and dragged her to his house. “Hiccup, what are you doing?” she asked.

“You were there for some of it and you should hear this.”

Once they were in the house, and got out of their heavy winter flying gear, Hiccup said, “Astrid, they are going to ask you all kinds of questions. Tell them about how you flew around trying to find me and that you found me with some friendly Scots and escorted me home.”

“But that Death....” Astrid started.

“Death? What Death?” Stoic asked loudly.

Hiccup held up his hands. “Please, listen. Short version, I was searching for where Nest 5 went missing to, we found a dragon that the Scots had killed, then during another dragon raid I found that the Green Death was controlling them directly. We found the nest and flew into a blizzard to hide in. We made it run into the ground and it exploded.”

Astrid broke in, “I followed the column of smoke the burning carcass made. I saw you flying and followed you to that castle.”

“Castle?” Asked Stoic patiently, getting a story out of somebody generally took a while as they sorted it all out.

“Castle MacGuffin. They were under attack by the dragons. I had to help them defend themselves,” explained Hiccup.

Stoic nodded, dragons had been a scourge on Berk for a long time. He knew Hiccup wouldn’t be able to not help.

“You said they shot you down, how did they do that?” asked Astrid pointedly.

“I couldn’t see any light because everyone was inside and the windows covered because of the cold. I thought the castle was deserted, but they were just hunkered down because of the cold. It was nighttime and we flew over it to see if how long it had been abandoned, but it wasn’t. They shot in the dark and got lucky.” He pulled off his shirt and showed the long slice up his upper arm. There was a fist-sized bruise from where Astrid had punched him.

“Sorry, about that.” said Astrid reaching out, but Hiccup just covered himself again.

“So Astrid, please don’t tell anyone about the Green Death yet. I want to talk to Dad about it in detail first. I’ll tell them later.”

“Not tell them...Are you sure? The last time we kept a secret...” Astrid glanced at Stoic.

“I’m telling my Dad first, it’s a big enough story that I want him to hear it all first and I am not sure how long it will take.” Hiccup explained.

“Okay.” Astrid looked a little doubtful.

“It’ll be okay.” Hiccup assured her.

“I know it will, you’ll make it work out.” She said and she hugged him for a while before leaving. She needed to do something, in the weeks after Hiccup had left for her survey mission there was massive buzz of gossip among the women about her and Hiccup’s relationship. Having him take her to his home was good, it reinforced her claim, but there was the feast yet. She knew almost all the women were better cooks then she was, though her mother had been helping her, she couldn’t compete. As good as she was with her ax, she couldn’t challenge everyone and she still wasn’t big enough for a sustained fight, she could only win if she won quickly.

She had to win his heart but even doing tricks with Stormfly she could never outdo Hiccup, though she wasn’t sure she needed to.

She wanted Hiccup so much, and the feeling that all the women of the tribe and now the women of Scotland were paying attention to him, was driving her insane.

# # #

“We dove for the ground as it was the only option left. The Green Death followed us down. It split itself on a mountain and we were able to duck behind a ridge to escape the explosion. We holed up under Toothless until the blizzard stopped and then flew back to the castle. We explained what happened to the Scots then Astrid showed up and we flew back here. On the way we passed over the nest but it was empty. They are back at Nest 5.” Hiccup finished explaining.

Stoic sat back and thought for a moment. “So any idea where the Green Death came from?” Hiccup had explained that he was calling it the Green Death because it had green scales when the Death from Dragon Island should be called the Red Death because of the red scales.

“No, and it’s pretty scary to think there are more of them out there. If the only way to find them is when they attack people, it may be a problem.”

Stoic sighed and thought, “I don’t think there is an easy way to find them so we are just going to have to be on the lookout.”

“Yeah.” his son said sounding defeated.

“Anything else?” asked Stoic.

“Yeah, the princess...”

“Yes?”

“I think she liked me, a little bit.” Hiccup said quietly.

Stoic smiled tolerantly. “Do you like her back?”

Hiccup looked down and said, “I don’t know. She was nice to be around.”

Stoic put his arm around his son and said, “It’s okay. You’re young yet and there is still time.”

“Thanks Dad. Dad, I don’t want to tell anyone about the Green Death just yet. It makes me feel funny. I need to think on it for a while. We need a plan if there is a next time.”

“As you wish, but we should alert people so they can be on the lookout.”

“Yeah, I know. I just need a little time.”

“Okay, but let’s not keep secrets, that got us into a lot of trouble last time.”

“Yeah.” said Hiccup, but he had to try working a few things out first. Things were getting complicated, Astrid and Merida confused him and he didn’t like that. He needed to figure that out somehow.

“Dad, do you know which tribe this is?” asked Hiccup, holding out a button with a triangle and knife on it.

Stoic took it and examined it for a moment. “No, I don’t, but new tribes come into being often enough that a new one isn’t a surprise.”

“Okay, so how do you found a new tribe?” asked Hiccup taking the button back, curious he didn’t have any idea how to create a new tribe. Wondering if that might help fix things with Scotland.

“You need to show the lawspeaker at the Althing that you have at least 50 men and women, where at least half of them are having babies, and have held your land for at least a year and a day.”

“Oh, is that why we stayed here after the dragons started raiding us?”

“Yes, if we lost the island, we would have to start over as a tribe.”

“Oh.”

“So where did you get that and how do you know its Viking?” asked Stoic.

“I got it from King Fergus in Scotland. It is evidence from a series of Viking raids they had last summer.” said Hiccup.

“Ah.” said Stoic, uncomfortably.

“Why do Viking raid?”

Stoic shrugged, “It’s a way to gain status, and go out fighting to get into Valhalla. The main reason is to get things that a tribe needs they can’t get another way, like slaves.”

“We don’t have slaves.”

“No, anyone taken as a slave is generally too weak to survive a dragon raid and we can’t spare the people from protecting the children and the sheep.”

Hiccup nodded after thinking about that. “Dad, why don’t we raid?”

Stoic let out a weak sort of laugh. “We haven’t had time with all the dragons we’ve had to deal with, and really we haven’t needed to. For all the trouble the dragons have caused we were doing quite well here. The land is rich and fertile, the trees produce plenty of wood, and we have iron and coal in abundance. Even with the dragon raids, Berk is a good place. We’d be ridiculously wealthy now without the dragon raids and even so we aren’t doing too bad.”

“Dad, we almost ran out of food over the winter, the dragons kept us alive.” pointed out Hiccup.

Stoic shrugged, “I know, but this was a lot worse winter then normal. In any case, we would have only lost some people, enough would have survived to keep the tribe going.”

Hiccup shivered as the implications of what his father had just said hit him.

# # #

Astrid ran through the deep snow ruts to home, ignoring the questions the men throwing at her. She found her mom in the kitchen.

“Mom, I found Hiccup and we’re back!” She ran over and gave her a hug.

“Yes, I know dear. I started whipping up something for you to give him.”

“Thanks mom. What is it?”

“A good, hearty fish stew, something to warm him up after flying all day in this cold.”

“Smells delicious. How do you do it so easily? Everything I try making tastes awful.”

“Practice, lots and lots of practice. If you put as much effort into learning cooking as you do your ax, you’ll be a great cook.”

“I doubt that. I try so hard.” Astrid snorted.

“Yes, but you also try to make complicated meals. You have to start small, like the first ax we gave you.”

Astrid gave a small smile as she looked at the small ax on the mantle, it was all wood and it was tiny now, but she had played with it her whole life.

“We’ll work on it some more tomorrow. You should also do something for Toothless, being nice to his dragon is as good as being nice to him, get from fish from out back and warm them in the big cauldron.”

“Great idea mom.” Astrid rushed outside and dug some frozen fish out of the snow. It was cold enough on the shady side of the house to keep the fish frozen that the dragons brought back. It took nearly half a day to fly to open water for fishing. They had an abundance of food with the help of the dragons and after thawing, the fish still tasted great.

This was the first time ever they had such fish, they usually had smoked or salted fish they had saved from before the ice set in around the island.

The ice was usually quite noisy, but this winter had become so cold everything had gone quiet. No pounding of the surf like in the summer nor the grinding sound of the ice in the winter. They had been completely locked in. The silence was eerie and made it hard to sleep, one of the reasons she had done looking for Hiccup as soon as he was overdue.

Giving Toothless thawed fish would be good. Astrid thought Toothless was looking a little tired. Thawing them first would make it easier for him too.

Astrid dumped the fish into the cauldron with a clatter and added water.

“Ah, ah, don’t stock the fire, you’ll make it too hot and it will scorch. You have to be patient, even when you don’t want to be dear.”

“Yes, mom.” Astrid put down the poker and tried to just watch the food cook.

After a while, “Mom, what am I going to do about Hiccup and everyone?”

“What do you mean?”

“Most of the tribe came out when we came in and so many women were crowding him, touching him, trying to take him away from me. Ruffnut and I had to push them back.”

“Well, he has all that status, it isn’t a surprise.”

“But he didn’t notice.”

“He is rather clueless that way.”

“He just sees me as a friend.”

“He needs friends, we weren’t kind to him, and we have to live with the consequences of that.”

“Yeah.”

“Be his friend first, he’ll notice you soon.”

“Scotland has a princess, I’m sure that she is interested in him too.” Astrid picked up the poker again, evaluating it as a weapon.

Astrid’s mother sighed as sat next to her daughter, “Astrid, you can’t fight your way through every problem. Some problems need different solutions. Cooking need patience and a watchful eye. You can’t make a dragon like you but you can entice them to you.”

“Yes, mom.”

“You have a strong claim on him by befriending him and his dragon before everyone else, and you have more status then all the women. It’ll be a great advantage to our family if you marry him. Your father is talking to Stoic about the possibility. It’s a problem that Stoic doesn’t have a wife, I have no way to influence him. You have to do what you can to influence Hiccup to like you. You have plenty of advantages over the older women. You are the same age, you are young enough to produce many good sons and you are a high status Viking. You just have to figure out what he needs in a wife and give it to him.”

“Thanks, mom.” said Astrid as she slid the fish into a basket and then trotted over to Toothless’ nest.

# # #

“Gobber, do you remember your mother?” Hiccup asked. They were in the smithy, the forge banked and the stall closed; putting the tools away. He remember her a little, she had been killed by a dragon a few years ago, long after Valhallarama was killed.

“Aye.” said Gobber, slowly as he hung up a sword in the rack. “Why?”

“She was from Scotland, wasn’t she?”

“Aye.”

“Did she miss it?”

“Yes she did, I could tell. She would do things on certain days, Celtic holy days, I’ve since learned. She did it in secret, Father would punish her if he found out, I never told.”

“Did she ever mention her family?”

Gobber shook his head. “Only in her sleep. Words. Names, I think.”

“I’ve noticed that the families of the slaves are smaller, just one son. Not like almost everyone else with brothers and sisters. Why?”

“I have no idea.”

“Slavery doesn’t really work does it?”

Gobber sighed. “No, not really.”

“Why hasn’t anyone else figured that out?”

“Stubbornness issues.” Gobber said with a crooked smile. “Besides it’s supposed to be fun, from what my father said. To challenge yourself against the other, to prevail, to see your enemies driven before you, to hear the lamentation of their women, to take their treasures and women.”

“Gobber, we were on the losing side of that for three hundred years with the dragons. Was it all that great?”

“No, not really, but better then dying in bed and going to Hel. Eh?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

# # #

Hiccup was walking back from the smithy, he was headed for the Great Hall for a bit of food, when he saw Gothi and Ingrid the midwife stop in front of his house and after a moment of talking with his father went inside. Hiccup could tell there was something up. So he snuck in the backdoor, and hid behind the bean barrel, to find out what it was. He had overheard lots of interesting stuff that way.

It was finally Spring and the day was warm. The snow was finally melting and the ground was defrosting. Hiccup and Gobber were making plows and shovels, but now it was time for a break as the pieces tempered. Gobber was chatting with some customers and had sent Hiccup to eat, he’d be along later.

“...I know we have a problem. There are lots of problems this tribe is facing. What problem have I not been giving enough attention to now?” Hiccup heard his father say.

Hiccup heard a scratching sound, probably Gothi writing something.

“Women? What about the women? Aren’t you taking care of the women?” Stoic asked.

“Yes, I am but there aren’t enough of us.” Hiccup heard Ingrid say.

“Not enough of you? Isn’t the Viking Widows League big enough for you?”

Hiccup heard a couple of sighs. The VWL was quite the group of women, all the women who survived the assault on the nest but lost their husbands. He saw them often enough coming up from their daily bath in the harbor, now that the ice had thawed. They used to have snowball fights, a few men had wanted to join in but the women fought very dirty, stuffing snow down each other’s dresses.

“I don’t want anyone/ in the VWL!” Ingrid said with a certain amount of heat. “We lost a lot of people at the nest.”

Hiccup shivered. They had lost so many people, the tribe had been decimated. If only he had been faster.

“We need to have everyone married again and making babies so we can rebuild the tribe, but we don’t have enough women.”

“What? Why? We are only short a hand full of women. The tribe can handle that.”

“No, Stoic. Too many of the women are getting too old to have any more babies for certain. There are only two young women, Astrid and Ruffnut, that are becoming ready to have children, then there are the handful of toddlers we have, they won’t be ready for a decade. Who are Hiccup, Snotlout, Tuffnut, and Fishlegs going to marry? ...Who are you/ going to marry?”

“What?”

There was a creak of a chair and soft footsteps. “Stoic, we need you. You gave us Hiccup. We could use some more like him.”

Hiccup couldn’t believe his ears, someone thought him as valuable?

“You don’t have to make a decision yet. Our time of mourning won’t be over for a little bit longer, but we’ll need to make a plan soon.” Ingrid said solemnly.

“How can I marry someone else?” he heard his father whisper.

“Because you must, for the good of the tribe.”

“But Val...?”

“You are never going to forget her and marrying another won’t dishonor her memory. You two had one of the great love stories of our tribe, but she’s dead and the tribe needs babies. Good strong babies.” Ingrid said gently.

“I’ll ...think about it.”

“Good, that is all we ask for now.”

“And where are we supposed to get these extra women for baby making?” asked Stoic.

Hiccup heard scribbling and the flap of paper.

Stoic’s chair creaked as he stood.

“Are you sure about this, Gothi?” Stoic asked, slowly.

Gothi banged her staff against the floor boards.

“We haven’t done a raid in a long time. We could lose more people that way.”

More scribbling.

“Yes, the dragons would make it easier, but still...it isn’t something we’ve done in a long time or ever with dragons.”

“That’s why we brought this up now, the spring planting is going well with the help of the dragons, soon we’ll have to do something but not yet. Think on it and make a plan. You are good at that. We’ll talk again in a few weeks.”

Hiccup, quietly snuck out the back but didn’t go to the Great Hall.

# # #

“Dad, we need to talk.” Hiccup said as he came up next to his Dad, who was tending the fire.

Stoic sighed. “Sure, son. What about?” He spent his whole day mediating problems between the members of the tribe. It was beginning to be Spring and squabbles were coming up over lands and duties. He was proud that his son took such good care of himself without his help, but he was tired of all the conflicts sometimes.

Hiccup wanted to say never mind now, he could see his Dad was tired, but this was important.

“You remember me telling you about my time in Scotland.”

“Yes.”

“There are a few little things I want to bring up.”

Stoic sighed, “What did we agree on, about keeping secrets?” So much death and destruction came from secrets. Stoic was trying to learn to listen to his son, because he knew he was half of the problem.

“I know. I know. I just needed to spend some time figuring it out, but I haven’t been able to come up with an answer that works.” Hiccup admitted.

Stoic cocked his head. He knew his son was really smart, solving intractable problems easily, often on the fly. “Well, if you can’t solve it then it must be a serious problem. I don’t know if I can help, but I’ll try. What is it?”

Hiccup threw a grateful look at his father. “They told me that they are often raided by Vikings, that they...we come and pillage coastal villages and take slaves. They showed me a dress that they keep as a reminder. A girl, no bigger then Astrid, had had her clothes cut off and was taken as a slave. I think about how I would feel if people came and took Astrid or Ruffnut and I don’t want the Scots to feel that anymore. They asked me to help them find a way to stop the raids and bring the women home.”

Stoic looked at his son for a moment and asked, “And how would you feel if Astrid was taken?”

“I would be angry. I would do everything in my power to get her back and wreak vengeance on those who took her. I would make it so the perpetrators would never be able to do it again.”

Stoic gazed at his son, weighing his words. Stoic knew that if Snotlout, the son of his right-hand-man, Spitelout, had said those words, Snotlout would would be raging, pacing and gesturing wildly. You knew he cared because of that. Hiccup had said the words so calmly and matter-of-factly, that you wouldn’t think he cared at all. Yet here in the quiet by the fire, looking into his sons eyes, he knew his son meant it, and would see it through.

“King Fergus asked if his daughter and I married, if that would make a difference. I told him I didn’t know and I still don’t. It might for our tribe but we haven’t raided in a long time and we are not exactly influential with the other tribes. All the solutions I’ve tried to come up with would lead to death, destruction and pain and I don’t want that for either side.” said Hiccup, sounded defeated. He was hoping that his father would bring up the raid that he had overheard so he wouldn’t have to admit to learning about it.

“That’s very good of you to consider.” If there was something that astounded Stoic about his son was that great compassion he had. He should consider it a weakness but it had allowed his son to make peace with the dragons. But people weren’t dragons. “So what have you considered?”

“In general terms: Dragon patrols around Scotland. The destruction of Viking ships and villages. That will bring war. I wish I was influential like you, Dad.” Hiccup said.

“What makes you think you aren’t influential?” asked Stoic.

“Come on, Dad. Nobody listens to all this.” Hiccup gestured to himself.

“You haven’t noticed yet, have you?” asked Stoic his eyes narrowing. His son was usually quite observant.

“Noticed what?”

“You remember that little talk I gave you about women after you got back from Scotland.”

“Yeah,” Hiccup blushed, hard. That had been the most uncomfortable talk he’s ever had with anyone.

“You have/ noticed Astrid and Ruffnut hang out with you a lot.”

“Well yeah, the gang tends to hang out together.”

“Yeah, but Astrid and Ruffnut are always close to you, usually sitting right next to you.”

“So?”

“Practically sitting on you when you are in your chair in the Great Hall.”

“Ah, yeah.” Hiccup blushed about that, it made him react to them in ways he was uncomfortable with, but Dad’s explanation told him why.

“You haven’t noticed the other women, have you?”

“W-what other women?” Hiccup asked, sounding panicked.

Stoic sighed. “Hiccup, a lot of women are interested in you as a mate. I haven’t had to cook for months now.” He gestured to the piles of food on the table.

“They aren’t bringing it for me but for you. They are making the best food they can to gain your attention and hopefully your affection. Most of the widows, most of the women in general want to marry you.”

“Wh-why me?”

“You really don’t know? You killed the Death. You befriended a Night Fury. You ended the war with the dragons. You are the most powerful Viking ever. They want to have your babies to make the tribe stronger.”

“Oh m-man.” Hiccup was quite pale.

“Don’t worry. I’ve told them that you are not going to make a decision right away. However, the memorial Thing is coming up soon. The widows and widowers are going to end their mourning and I will have to encourage them to start marrying. I expect many of the widows will ask you. You are free to marry who you will, you can even put it off for a while if you must, but not too long. You might want to act quickly though, some widowers might try to choose Astrid. You should talk to her.”

“T-talk. Astrid.” Hiccup nodded, jerkily.

Stoic smiled gently at his freaked out son. He sat beside him and put his arm around him.

“Come on. This is a good thing. You are the mightiest Viking on life. It’s great having the women fawn over you. You have spent too much time alone. You need to get to know them, and try to find one that fills in your heart with good feelings. Did I ever tell you about how your Mom and I fell in love?”

Hiccup shook his head a bit more then the rest of his body.

“I’m sorry. I am trying to be a better father to you. I’m not doing a great job of it. Running the tribe takes up a lot of time, but that is no excuse, not any more.”

Hiccup looked up.

“So. Your mother and I, we knew each other from the time we were kids like everyone here. Dragon training time came around and I was in the lead as usual. We were facing a Nadder in the maze, one of the typical training scenarios.”

Hiccup nodded remembering that one.

“Well, I was trying to corner it and it cornered me instead. I was about to charge it down when Val came barreling in out of nowhere and knocked it over into one of the walls. It thrashed around and ended up dumping a few walls on top of itself, trapping it and us. We crawled to an opening and when we saw that the Nadder was trapped too. Val leapt into the air, her hands upraised and yelled “we did it!” Then she planted a big kiss on my cheek. Ah, nothing like sharing a dragon. I liked her before then, but right then I knew, really knew, that she was the one for me.” Stoic said with a happy sigh.

Hiccup smiled a little, then he remembered something.

“Dad. Where did Grandma come from?”

Stoic sighed sadly, he should have known this question was coming. “She came from Scotland. She was one of several slaves Dad--Grandpa--bought when he went to an Althing and we were facing the same problem we are now.” Stoic left that hanging.

“Not enough women to make babies.” Said Hiccup quietly.

“Yes, you are paying attention then. Good.” Stoic said proudly.

“No, I just overheard ...people.”

“That works too.”

“Dad... Did Grandma miss Scotland?” asked Hiccup. He vaguely remembered the metal collar she wore all the time. He remembered playing with it, but she didn’t, couldn’t take it off.

“I-I don’t know. She never talked about it.” Said Stoic after a moments thought.

“Never?”

“Not that I ever heard, at least.” Stoic was looking thoughtful.

“But somewhere she had parents and maybe other family, missing her, in Scotland.”

“Aye, they would.” Stoic was sounding sober.

“It’s wrong to do that to people Dad. War with the dragons was not the answer. Raids are not the answer. There has to be a different answer to this problem.” Hiccup was speaking with great conviction and Stoic knew that his son was right.

“Yes, there should be. About all I can think of is to go to the Althing, we’ll have to leave right after the Thing marking the end of mourning.”

“Althing?” asked Hiccup.

“It’s the big Thing where the tribes can settle disputations between themselves without having to have a blood feud. It’s somewhat more peaceful that way.” Stoic laughed a little, “I haven’t gone in ages because the dragons kept us so busy. We should also go to introduce you to the other chieftains and the lawspeaker. We could also get some trading done. Yes, going to the Althing would be a very good idea and we may find a solution to the raiding problem. The lawspeaker should be able to tell us how to deal with what you want to do.” Stoic said brightening. It felt right to go to the Althing. He was getting ideas of things to take for trade and to show off his son that he was so proud of.

“Run along, son. I need talk to Spitelout and organize a few things. Yes, this is a great idea.” said Stoic as he stood and left Hiccup at home.

# # #

Hiccup had Toothless fly to the top of a tall mountain. Hiccup needed some quiet to think. It was windy and the air a little thin and cold but they were alone. He never seemed to be able to be alone with his thoughts anymore.

The smithy was always busy now, even with now that they finished the shovels and plows. Everyone was coming in to some little thing or other repaired, and they would gladly wait until he was done fixing it. Others would be at his house talking to his father about some little dispute they were having, and the Great Hall always ended up packed for dinner, Astrid would often have to fight her way over to her seat next to him.

The spring planting had been done in record time once the dragons understood what they were trying to do.

There was the adventure with Gobber and the Boneknapper. That had been nice, it felt like friendship. The meeting he had over heard between his father and Gothi bothered him. The Boneknappers were happy to be a family and they showed it between themselves rather often. They were rather noisy when they did it.

What his dad was thinking he didn’t know, but he had to do something. What he had learned about the results of the slave raids were bothering him. He knew how he would feel with Astrid and Ruffnut were taken. It was wrong to raid someone but what could he do about it?

He was son of the chief, but he was nobody.

Right now he just wanted some thinking time, maybe another survey mission, that would clear his mind. That dragon nest that had attacked Scotland was back in its old nest, but now what. They really did need more people to train dragons, but the Vikings weren’t such good people to manage them alone. They were so aggressive, and they might attack everyone just because they were more powerful with the dragons.

No, he needed to talk to someone, someone special.
Hiccup and Astrid make it back to Berk. Complications arise from the aftermath of the Battle with the Red Death.

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