Valka tried to control the trembling in her fingers as she quickly hefted one of Stoick's many axes in her hands, her eyes focused solely on the intruder that had broken into their house, into her son's nursery.
The dragon was unlike any she had seen before, it's dark body towered over the small wooden cradle that held her little Hiccup. Eyes the color of molten gold staring into the green eyes of her son. But what made her pause from swinging the hefty axe into the dragon's backside was the look of innocence and soft curiosity that was in, not only in her infant son's eyes, but also in the dragon's.
It was Hiccup's giggling laughter that made the Viking mother lower her weapon, her body locked as though frozen as she saw the deadly dragon that could destroy the room if it but turned around, looking at her small son with curiosity, one of his -for Valka had an idea that the dragon was male- claws in front of the baby's face, but somehow the action was gentle and nonthreatening as Hiccup's meaty little fist grabbed the dragon's claw and held it as though it was a toy.
It was there, in those few short moments, alone save for the massive dragon and her small son, did Valka realize that her suspicions of the dragons being intelligent and capable of emotions other than bloodlust and rage were true. Dragons could be kind and caring, for why else was a believed killer looking at her fragile son with such gentleness and curiousness without even trying to gobble her Hiccup up like the stories often portrayed the winged beasts?
Hiccup's cries of pain alerted her back towards reality, her little boy had shifted in his wooden cradle and in doing so, the claw had accidently cut him at the jut of his chin, just below his lips. The mother within her overtook the warrior within her, Valka dropped the axe, the sharpened blade sinking into the wood with a shink, but she paid no attention to something she wouldn't need. Something in her heart and soul told the dark Stormcutter would hurt her, and he didn't.
She rushed to the cradle, grabbing Hiccup from his bundle of wool blankets, and rocked him gently, shushing his cries as Valka continued to rock him, her son's wails turned to sobs, to sniffling and then content silence as he was watched under the care of his loving, protective mother who would never let anything hurt him. Only when his cries lessened and his eyelids started to flutter did Valka look up at the intruder.
The golden eyes of the Stormcutter burned into her, his dark scales practically blending in with the shadows, but it was his eyes that caught her attention as though she had been placed into a trance. His eyes were warm and kind, not cold and cruel like that of a monster. This wasn't a monster like every Viking had been told since they could hold an axe, this was a beautiful creature with a heart and soul that reflected her own.
Everything we know about dragons… is wrong. By Odin she had known, known that peace was possible between dragons and Vikings, foes since the beginning of time, but what if that time was ending? The end of an era of war and death and war again, Valka could see a new era. An era where her Hiccup was safe without fear of dragon raids, a world without dragon wars. Her son could be safe. She saw this, as the dragon's head came closer to her, his molten gold eyes never wavering as their hearts beat at the same tempo, two souls connected to create one. With one arm holding Hiccup, Valka slowly reached out towards the Stormcutter's nose, her palm stretched outwards. The dragon began to lean in, anticipating her touch, she didn't see danger, instead all she saw was safety.
"VALKA!" Stoick's bellow made her jerk her hand away, just in time to see a silver flash as a spinning axe sank into the wooden post, separating the two humans from the dragon. Her husband had appeared from nowhere, his massive, hulking frame outline by the fires that burned from within the village. In his hand was his favorite axe, an axe that had severed life from dragons countless of times, and her beloved Viking husband was staring at the dragon that had broken into his home with eyes that burned like Hel's fires.
Stoick surged forward, fast and nimble for a man his size, the Stormcutter barely managed to dodge the Viking's deadly axe without crashing through the walls. Dread filled her belly as she saw the gentle creature move around in alarm, recognizing the danger of the Viking Chief. Stoick was behind them, by Hiccup's cradle as he glared at the Stormcutter that had dared to attack his family. Fire sprouted from the dragon's mouth in his alarm but also in an act of self-defense, forming a wall of fire right in the middle of the nursery. The fire rose high, and Valka realized that Stoick was trapped behind the wall of fire, whilst the dragon was on the other side with her and Hiccup.
"No, don't!" Tears sprung from her eyes as she realized what had happened, Valka should have known that peace was impossible when people like her husband were in the world. How foolish could she be? Stoick was a Viking, and Vikings killed dragons, she had seen it done so herself. Stoick would never understand the bond that had occurred when she had looked into the dragon's yellow eyes, would never know the love and wonder when looking into the dragon's soul, would never know the care and innocence in the dragon's heart. To Vikings, dragons were monsters, it had been so for six generations; their tradition revolved on the killing of dragons, and tradition was the most important aspect in a Viking's life, aside from dragon slaying.
The Stormcutter looked at her as she cried, his own eyes mournful as he caught sight of her tears. Before she could blink, before Stoick could move, the dragon had leapt, snatching Valka up like a hawk did a trout, and began to take to the sky with Valka and Hiccup in tow.
Valka screamed as her feet left the ground. Hiccup began to wail as he was woken up once again, unaware of the true danger they were in, held in the claws of a dragon several feet off the ground and rising. The little house that had held her little family began to get smaller and smaller, but the massive figure that had rushed towards the destroyed wall was all that mattered to Valka. Because, even though Stoick was a Viking, he was her husband, and she loved him as much as she loved the son they shared. "STOICK!" she cried out as massive dragon carried her and Hiccup away from her husband and Berk.
Stoick ran as fast as his legs could carry him, his massive bulk hulking forward as he reached the edge of the small hill-like cliff that their house was nestled on. His eyes never leaving the terrified form of his wife, his steady heart thundering and breaking as he heard the cries of his wife and heir, his little Hiccup. The fire had spread, but Stoick paid it no heed. He just stared in lost horror as his family disappeared into the night. The proud Viking chief of Berk fell to his knees in utter defeat in the ruins of his home, his brown eyes broken and his heart shattered. "Valka… Hiccup…." The pitiful whimper that came from him was heartbreaking. "My love… my son…" the tears streamed down his cheeks as he collapsed on the ground, as though all the strength in his massive body had disappeared with his family.
"Hiccup… Valka," he whispered again, his vision blurry by tears as he lay there in the ashes of his life.
The Chief of Berk did not know how long he laid there in the burned ruins of his infant son's nursery, long after the fire had sputtered out when it had meet the stonework of the other rooms. But Stoick the Vast did not care about the conditions of his home, all he cared about was his wife and son, taken from him by a demon of the skies.
"Stoick! Stoick, where are ya?!" The bellow of Gobber barely roused him from his thoughts, he just continued to stare at the sky that had begun to lighten with the arrival of dawn. He heard the clunk of his best friend's peg leg before he saw him, but even that did not stir him.
Gobber was a hulking man like Stoick, though where Stoick's hair was a fiery mane of red, Gobber's hair was as golden as wheat, but other than that they were similar in all ways Viking. One of his hands was missing, torn off during a raid in their youth, but now had an axe attached to the stump. Gobber was like a brother to him, but he didn't need Gobber right now, he needed Valka and Hiccup… but they were gone, snatched before him.
"What happened?" Gobber asked gob smacked as he looked at the burnt remains of the room where his leader was lying in.
"Dragon," Stoick whispered, his voice gruff and broken from inhaling too much smoke, though perhaps it was grief that had overtaken him.
The village's smith swears were so vivid and descriptive they would have cowed a sailor. "Where are Hiccup and Valka?" Gobber asked, looking around for the powerful warrior and her little, sweet son that Gobber loved to spoil with little carved toys. He finally looked at Stoick and noticed instantly that something was wrong, his friend's face was as pale as a corpse, his hair singed, but it was his eyes that terrified him. They were empty, shattered like broken glass, devoid of life. It terrified the burly Viking, he had never seen Stoick so defeated, so broken, so lost.
"What happened, Stoick? Where are Hiccup and Valka?" He whispered to his friend fearfully, not wanting to know the answer, but the absence of Valka and Hiccup was painfully apparent to the blacksmith. His heart sank when he saw the tears form in Stoick's eyes, in all of his years of knowing the great Viking warrior Gobber had never seen Stoick cry, not even when they had been wee lads with wooden swords. By Freyja, no…
"No… no, no, no…" Gobber mumbled, "No, no, no. Not them, please Stoick, tell me this is some sick joke, not Hiccup and Valka…"
Stoick didn't say anything, but the tears still came, washing away the ash that still coated his cheeks. "It took them," he whispered, his voice hoarse and broken. "It took Valka and Hiccup."
It took them to their deaths.
By Thor, it hurt. Where Stoick's heart had been was nothing, wilted away like a blossom in winter. He felt nothing; life suddenly had no meaning. It was as though he had been made a draugr, devoid of life but still in the land of living, but just barely. He didn't notice the meaty hand clasping his shoulder, too caught up in his numbing pain.
Gobber didn't say anything; his own eyes swarming with unshed tears. He looked around at the ruins of Hiccup's nursery, his eyes suddenly caught on the sight of Hiccup's wooden cradle. He strode over to it, the wool that had warmed the babe had grown grey from the ash, but that small spot of crimson was all he saw. Gobber might not be the smartest man in the world, but even he knew what that little dot of red was. Hiccup's blood.
Hiccup… memories of the babe flashed through his mind. When he had been first born, how tiny he had looked in Stoick's arms, how weightless he had been in Gobber's. He remembered how happy Valka and Stoick were with their little boy. He remembered presenting the heir of Berk his first toy, a little wooden Viking to play with when he was older, though the boy had started to gnaw on it with his toothless gums before Valka had swiftly taken it away when the boy tried to swallow it. That little babe who used to giggle and pull at his da's beard… gone. The blood just confirmed it.
Anyone who was snatched during a raid, be they human or livestock, had never returned and while humans were rarely taken, as a Viking would fight off any dragon that tried to snatch them, those who had had yet to be heard from. It was assumed by all that those snatched were taken by to the dragon's nest and eaten.
"They're gone," he heard Stoick sob again, his massive shoulders quivering. "My wife and son are gone."
With a heart as heavy as lead, Gobber walked over to his chief, who looked so utterly defeated and broken it hurt just looking at him. Stoick was the ideal Viking; strong, fierce, protective, proud, and undefeatable… but now Stoick the Vast was a broken man with a shattered heart.
"We need to find the other villagers, make sure they're okay," Gobber told the mourning man, hoping to break him from dark thoughts. He knew that Stoick would need time, but Stoick was chief and Berk needed him. "The raid was a bad one… we're lost others, Stoick… Hiccup and Valka were just two of ten." The dragons had begun to become fiercer lately and more bold as they had started to attack Berk more often than before.
When Gobber touched Stoick's shoulder, the man reared back as though he had been burned. "Don't touch me!" The Chief of Berk got to his feet and stalked out of the ruined home, the house that had been the home of his family for countless generations, but now it was destroyed and empty, as his family now was. He was the last one; his wife and son were dead.
They were dead because he didn't kill that Thor damned Stormcutter, and his wife and son had paid for his weakness. That dragon may have burned down his home, but it had destroyed his life in the process. His family… gone in the blink of an eye.
A rage burned within him so hot it made his vision swarm red, his fist clenched so hard that his dirty nails cut into his palm, causing droplets of blood to form and drip onto the ground. With a roar of rage, hatred, and sorrow, Stoick the Vast punched the burnt wall besides him. The entire thing collapsed upon itself, the burnt timber collapsing on the ground in an ashy heap. Gobber stumbled back nervously, knowing full well to leave Stoick alone at the moment unless he wanted his other arm torn off.
"The dragons did this, Gobber," Stoick's voice was dark and murderous, his eyes as cold as Niflheim itself. "The dragons killed my wife and son. They will pay for this." The Viking clenched his axe in his hand, his knuckles white and bloody. "I will kill them all." He declared as he looked onwards towards the dawn, the sunrise was so beautiful that Stoick wanted to laugh in morbid amusement. "As the gods as my witness I, Stoick the Vast, Chief of Berk, son of Hamish the Fourth, swear by my axe, blood, and soul to avenge the death of my wife and son. I swear to kill every dragon I can with no mercy and no hesitation, I vow to kill the dragon that killed Valka and Hiccup with this axe, the axe I should have used to save them. I swear to avenge my family!"
Stoick…. Gobber thought somberly. Swearing an oath to the gods was no little thing, to break the oath would result in instant expulsion from the great halls of Valhalla. A place where Stoick belonged when he died, where he could feast with loved ones long since gone. If he did not follow through with his oath, though Gobber knew he would, could result in him being sent to the realm of Helheim.
"Come Gobber," Stoick said as he lumbered towards the village, "We must prepare for the next attack… there will be no mercy. I swore I would gain vengeance upon those demons and I will."
Gobber didn't say anything; he just stared into Stoick's broken, dead eyes. How could things change so fast? He thought to himself. A day before he had witnessed Stoick throwing his son in the air before catching him, the warrior laughing at Hiccup's giggles as he played with Hiccup, his and Valka's pride and joy. Valka had been humming a song that Stoick would sing with her. But that had been yesterday, and now Valka and Hiccup were dead. He knew what would happen now, his best friend and leader was gone, and in his place stood an avenger that would kill every dragon that came close to the island of Berk to avenge his loved ones.
As the hours dragged by, Valka's fear began to subside. When the Stormcutter had snatched her from Berk, she had spent several minutes yelling at the creature to take her and her son back to Berk. But her cries fell on deaf ears and the great reptile continued to fly across icebergs, sunken ships, and small islands Valka had never seen before.
Valka wasn't afraid for herself, but she was terrified for her son. Hiccup was such a small boy and she didn't know if the freezing winds would hurt him. She could at least thank the dragon for grabbing her in a way that she could somewhat move her arms and nestled Hiccup in her coat. Her precious son had fallen asleep long ago, his small breathing relaxing his mother somewhat as she saw the water rush underneath her.
The Stormcutter gave a throaty grumble, making the mother look upwards. Odin's eye… there before her was a moving mountain of spiked rock and ice, tinged a light greenish blue that looked like crystals from afar. It was monstrous in size, the spikes sticking towards the sky like massive porcupine quills. It took her a second to realize that wherever the Stormcutter had taken them, he was heading towards the rather unsettling mass of ice. She heard cries and roars behind her, glancing backwards she saw dozens of dragon who had raided Berk flying behind the dragon who held them, their forms sometimes hidden by the thick fog. That's their nest, she realized. A dragon's nest.
There was a small crevice in the ice, which the yellow-eyed dragon swooped through easily. The other dragons followed him, as though he was the leader. It was dark, but somehow a greenish light enveloped the twisting tunnels, revealing oddly shaped stalagmites and stalactites that were rounded and smoothed that was made of dark rock. The dragon continued to fly throughout the tunnels, making Valka wonder just how large this nest was. And then suddenly the Stormcutter gently laid them on the ground, Valka holding onto her infant son as gravity reclaimed them.
Valka's ragged breath was visible from the cold, she feared for her son who couldn't survive such temperature. Clutching him to her chest, she looked at the dragon that had taken him. His golden eyes stared into her, into her heart and soul. She calmed down instantly as she looked on into his eyes, reassured by whatever bond held them. She should be angry at the Stormcutter for taking her and her son away from their home and Stoick, but she just couldn't be. When Valka looked into his beautiful, thoughtful eyes all she saw was herself reflected in them.
"Why did you bring me here?" She asked the dragon, looking into his beautiful yellow eyes.
The Stormcutter blinked, cocking his head to the side slightly like a curious cat. He didn't say anything, not that Valka expected it. With a rumbling purr he turned away from her, his dark scales almost blending in with the shadows, when he turned around his eyes glowed like miniature suns.
Follow, his eyes seemed to say.
Clutching her son to her breast, Valka slowly followed the massive four-winged dragon through the icy tunnels. She suddenly stopped and strained her ears, so sure that they were deceiving her. It sounded like rushing water, but they were in what appeared to be a giant ball of ice, and then suddenly a warm, gentle breeze swept through the tunnel. The breeze reminded her of spring, warm and full of life which didn't make sense to her considering her current location. Curiously she hurried her step, still holding her sleeping babe close to her. There was an opening up ahead, a warm light blanketing what lay beyond. The Stormcutter was already there, his massive form clouding him in shadows due to the light, but she still saw his eyes, and that gave her strength.
What awaited her at the top made her heart stop, had she not been holding her son she might have collapsed to her knees in shock. Before her was something that belonged in a dream, something that shouldn't be possible. It was so massive and full of life, it just didn't seem real.
The word cavern didn't do it justice. It was as though she had left Midgard and into a whole new realm. Flora flourished under the bright sunlight, moss clung to rocky spires the size of hills, water ran past her in bubbling creeks and formed into roaring waterfalls. But it was the current occupants that caught her awed attention.
There had to be hundreds of them. Changewings, Deadly Nadders, Rumblehorns, Monstrous Nightmares, Timberjacks, Gronckles, Terrible Terrors, Hideous Zipplebacks, Thunderdrums, Whispering Deaths, and so many more that Valka had never seen before. Dragons of all various shades of colors, shapes and sizes flew around her. The sight of so many dragons took her breath away, never before had she seen the creatures so close and in the daylight. They were majestic creatures, not the monsters the Vikings thought they were.
She heard a soft rumble from behind her, jerking around Valka saw that it was the Stormcutter. Slowly Valka leaned forward, her palm outstretched as it had been in Hiccup's nursery, before Stoick had appeared with an axe in his hand. The gentle creature looked at it curiously, before slowly nuzzling it. He was warm to the touch, and Valka watched in fascination as the dragon leaned into her touch, a rumbling purr of affection coming from him.
A sudden surge of love rushed through her, making her heart lighter than it had been in years. His eyes looked into hers, the same love and affection burning within those yellow orbs was so strong that Valka had to refrain from wrapping her arms around his head, seeing as she was still holding another human being at the moment. She couldn't explain it, but like in the nursery, the bond she felt with this gentle dragon was something she couldn't explain in words, it was not like her maternal love for Hiccup or her love for Stoick. It was something else, a new type of love that she had never experienced before.
With a start Valka realized that she didn't know his name. Did dragon even have names? She couldn't continue to refer to the creature whose soul reflected her own as dragon or Stormcutter; he deserved a proper name. She looked deep into his eyes, struggling to find the perfect name, as she gazed into his intelligent eyes a thought struck her. Valka smiled warmly, rubbing her hand against his muzzle.
"Cloudjumper, I'll call you Cloudjumper."
Cloudjumper seemed to croon at that, butting his massive head against her smaller form. Valka smiled warmly, leaning her head against his own, smiles almost identical despite the different species. Cloudjumper turned his attention to the sleeping babe in Valka's arms, softly and gently he nuzzled the infant with such tenderness that the mother couldn't help but smile.
"You're just a big softie, ain't ya?" She questioned Cloudjumper who merely crooned.
Valka laughed, "What is this place?" she wondered aloud as she spun in a circle, her eyes gazing at the hundreds of dragons flying high above her.
Cloudjumper butted his massive head against her, indicating her to move. She followed his direction until they were at the very edge of the cliff overlooking the nest. She glanced back to Cloudjumper, but the great dragon had moved to the ground in what she assumed was a submissive action, oddly looking like a bow.
Turning around again she saw why. She backed away nervously as she came face to face with eyes the color of ice, but unlike Cloudjumper's they were easily the size of her, and the dragon they belonged to…
The great white behemoth stared down upon her with an inquiring look, how had she not noticed him beforehand? He was the size of a mountain, his tusks the size of the oldest pine trees. She had thought Cloudjumper and Murderous Nightmares to be giants of the dragon race, but their size was downright puny compared to this… this King.
What else could he be? She had of course heard of Queen dragons, though she had never seen one before. They were massive dragons that guarded the nest of her flock, but this was no Queen. This was the King.
Even the way he looked upon her was regal and poised, and by the way Cloudjumper bowed it was apparent that he was powerful in his own right besides his massive size. The great behemoth didn't seem alarmed to see a human and her infant in his home, if anything he regarded her with pure curiosity.
She decided to mimic Cloudjumper and quickly bowed to the great King that was staring at her, his ice blue eyes warmed ever so slightly. He exhaled softly, mist erupting from his monstrous maw and enveloped the woman and babe, frost sticking to her and Hiccup's hair like freshly fallen snow.
Cloudjumper crooned again as he muzzled her, knocking the snow from her hair. Though he could not speak her tongue, his eyes said everything: He likes you two. Valka leaned into his warm touch, her head resting against his own as she ran one hand across his scaled neck. Hiccup stared at the dragon with big green eyes, a thumb stuck in his mouth and slobbering up a storm, as young babes often did.
"Why do I feel so…" She hesitated, looking for the word as she looked at the home of dragons, after a few paused moments she found it. "Safe?" She knew she shouldn't, she was literally in the dragon's den with her small child and no weapons to protect herself and Hiccup, but there was no fear of being maimed or eaten or anything of the sort. She hadn't felt so safe since she had been a wee lass, when her mother and father watched over her and dragon raids were few.
Because you belong here, Cloudjumper stared at her with those beautiful yellow eyes.
The former inhabitant of Berk didn't know what to say to that, if Cloudjumper had even said it, because it was true. She looked at these creatures that her people thought were monsters and didn't fear or hate them, she felt as though she belonged with them. Here in this sanctuary, there were no Berk Vikings that stared at her for having a different mindset; there was no ill will towards her for being different from the others. She had never truly belonged there, where such views were despised and mocked, she belonged here with Cloudjumper, with the dragons.
She looked down at her precious boy, the boy who had been so small when she had birthed him that she had feared he would perish soon after he had been given life. Stoick had believed differently, that their son was going to grow big and strong and become the greatest Viking to walk through Berk. It was something that Stoick and so many others had dreamed for their children, a goal to be reached by all children, to become big and strong, to become Vikings.
But she didn't want Hiccup to be a Viking. Vikings, especially those from the island of Berk, were cold and cruel to the dragons who could be such gentle creatures if treated right. The thought of her son growing to be like Stoick with an axe in one hand and a shield in the other facing a dragon with the intention to kill was heartbreaking; she didn't want that for her son. Even now, despite him being so young, Valka knew that her son was different. And from her own experience, being different on Berk was the worst thing imaginable to the close-minded Vikings.
She thought back to when Stoick had attacked Cloudjumper in Hiccup's nursery, how she realized that the Vikings couldn't change, that Stoick couldn't change. She loved her husband and tribe, but she loved her son more. She wouldn't allow Hiccup to live the life that had awaited him at Berk, where he would be looked down on and mocked for his difference. She would keep him and raise him right here in this sanctuary. Instead of learning how to kill dragons, Hiccup would help her in understanding them, befriending them instead of hating them.
"This is where we're going to live, Hiccup," she said to the baby who looked at her with wide green eyes, her green eyes. "This is our home now." She looked up again at the different species of dragons that she both recognized and didn't, she looked at Cloudjumper whose soul and heart was her own, she looked at the King who allowed them to remain. "This is our family now."