For some reason I wrote some of this in both the present and past tense, dunno why. I think it was because it felt more impactful.
Valka was in the midst of watching over a group of rambunctious dragon hatchlings when she feels it.
It is sudden and without warning.
She gasps aloud, as though the air had been knocked from her, and clutches her throbbing head with both hands. She is only faintly aware that Cloudjumper has begun to hiss harshly in aggravation; Valka wants to comfort him but cannot find the strength to move. Around her, the hatchlings still play with a spring in their step, unaware and naïve.
The sensation strikes again, coming in thunderous waves that tenses her whole frame, making her muscles react and shiver as though a great chill has settled into her marrow. Her teeth clench together, gnashing and gnawing, as she struggles to breathe. Her mouth has turned dry, and it feels as though her tongue was coated with wool.
It is something Valka feels rarely nowadays, and yet it has become so familiar to her that it has been engrained into her very muscles and bones. It has become an instinct branded into her very soul since the day she first arrived clutched in Cloudjumper's grasp.
An Alpha's Call.
It is a majestic and terrifying experience.
For Valka can feel the moment in her mind where she is suddenly not alone. There is another presence that comes to awareness, whose sheer presence overwhelms everything else. Her own thoughts are meaningless whispers as foreign sensations and thoughts blare throughout her head like trumpeting war horns and beaten drums.
"C-Cloudjumper." She only barely manages between gasps, and right away her beloved companion is right by her side, nestled right up to her side. She leans against him for support, fingers digging into the grooves of his scales for grip. She can distinctly feel every trembling shudder that goes through the dragon's body. Cloudjumper isn't looking at her, possibly because it is quite literally impossible to look at anything but the source of this feeling. His amber eyes are fixated on a direction that leads straight into the center of the Nest.
Sharp teeth capable of ripping apart metal armor with but a single bite are gently applied to the back of outfit in the area right below her neck, tenderly piercing through the hardened leather and fur with ease. Hot breath puffs against her back. Then Cloudjumper lifts his head up, and Valka can do nothing but follow the motion, like a kitten grasped in their mother's mouth. He twists his head to deposit her on his back, before launching himself into the air.
They fly urgently.
It is easy to find the Alpha, due to his immense size. The Bewilderbeast has emerged from the waters, eye-level with a ridge where they can just barely make out two small shapes. One had a distinctly human shape, and the other held the distinct impression of a lithe dark-scaled dragon. It was not difficult to realize who they were.
Cloudjumper begins to lose altitude, unfurling out all four massive wings to gently glide towards the ridge. The moment there is an opportunity to leap off the dragon's back without breaking bones, Valka takes it. She lands heavily, even a bit unevenly, her head still thrumming. Cloudjumper lands besides her, his approach even louder and clumsier than her own. Valka hurried forward with Cloudjumper following as her massive shadow.
And there was her son, Hiccup, right before the Alpha on both knees with his head bowed low. He looked so tiny in comparison to the massive Alpha. The great dragon could easily snuff both Valka and her son if he so much as sneezed. Such great, unlimited power.
Yet, their Alpha was a gentle giant. Very rarely did the gigantic ice dragon ever use his unfathomable power to cause harm; their beloved Alpha mostly used it to keep the Nest structural and strong with his icy breath. Hiccup had nothing to fear, and it was apparent as he knelt before their ruler, and yet his shoulders still shook, exposing a vulnerability without any fear or hesitance.
He's shaking, Valka thought worriedly. Is he crying?
Hiccup has not cried for so very long. It made the mother in her worry, already thinking of the worst.
Concerned for her son, Valka took a step forward. Hiccup, seemingly able to hear her despite the distance, stiffened his shoulders as he glanced behind him. His eyes were red-rimmed and watery. The tears had frozen from the Alpha's gentle breath, Valka noticed distantly, leaving little iced droplets frozen against flushed skin.
The need to comfort him was overbearing, but something in his posture made her stay still from suspicion. It might be because she was his mother and had known him his whole life, but Hiccup's thoughts and emotions had never been hard to read. It was easy to read the meaning behind every facial tick, to see the emotions behind the slouch of his posture.
There was guilt in him. It was obvious by how his shoulders drooped as though a great weight was pressing downwards. How he shrunk back into himself at her approach, like he was in half a mind to bolt and hide underneath the nearest rock.
Something is wrong. Something has happened.
"Hiccup," Valka breathed. "What have you done?"
It came suddenly and without warning.
A sharp pain in his head, like pins and needles burrowing into both his mind and skin; it wasn't necessarily painful, but it was unnatural in itself. Something a human should never experience. It was like an intense itchy, prickliness that smarted underneath his flesh.
Dazed, Eret recognized it as the phantom feelings of his leader, the Alpha. For what else could compare to this sensation; when once there had been nothing, and then suddenly all he could comprehend was there was something in his head and thinking not-Eret's-thoughts and feeling not-Eret's-emotions.
It is bizarre and unnatural.
Yet, he knows without a doubt, that it is the Call. Very rarely has he ever experienced it, and rarer still was it to have such a profound effect on him. It was usually Hiccup and, to an extent, Valka who were the most affected whenever it had occurred in his childhood. Perhaps he is more sensitive to it now?
Whatever the reason, Eret hurries towards the center of the Nest. It is sheer luck that he was on the right level and nearby anyway, otherwise he'd have been forced to scale up the cliff face. There is no chance of flying up there, as all the adult dragons are stuck on the ground and unable to fly. While he does have to navigate through the tunnels, there is no lost time trying to orientate himself. He has lived in the Nest for a long time, almost half of his life by this point, and has long since been able to find his way through the twisting, winding tunnels. It takes several minutes of quick walking, least he tumbles on the slick stone and break a foot, and meticulous climbing, but eventually he exits out of a tunnel that deposits him at the base of the hill where one can stand before the Alpha.
He hears screaming ahead. Eret quickens his step, his hand resting on the hilt of his weapon in preparation for an ambush. Could intruders have made their way here?
"-of all the irresponsible, hare-brained and idiotic-"
Was that mother?
"-could have died! You could have been caught! Only the gods know what else-"
He slipped on a patch of dirt and stone slicked over by frost, barely able to catch himself while gouging his palms in the process. By the time he manages to scramble up the incline, his mother has stopped her screaming in favor of taking a moment to breathe. Eret takes that moment of silence to take in the situation before him.
Mother is red-faced and shaking. Hiccup is pale and trembling, hunched over low as though trying to sink into the ground and let it swallow him whole. Besides him, Toothless cowers, belly pressed against the ground and his head tucked under his paws, at the woman's fury. His brother looks utterly miserable.
"What's going on here?" His question alerted the two humans to his presence, and both turned from the other to face him. "Mother, why are you yelling?" He looks between them, trying to piece the situation together. "Has something happened?"
His question seemingly resparked his mother's ire, for her face flushed a deep red and she spoke bitterly. "Ask your fool of a brother. He went to the Barbaric Archipelago." Valka explained, shooting Hiccup a dirty look that bespoke of anger and frustration. Eret felt his heart skip a beat at the words 'Barbaric Archipelago'. Hiccup lowered his head, not even trying to defend himself. "You and Toothless could have died, Hiccup. You could have been shot out of the sky. Or worse, you could have been caught!"
Caught? Surely death was worse than that.
"Mother, please, you must calm down!" Eret tried to console her.
Yet it seemed as though his words did little to calm the near-hysterical woman. "You don't understand!" Valka all but wailed, voice trembling and watery. "He isn't supposed to be there!"
"Mama…" Hiccup mumbled, finally looking up to stare at his mother with wide eyes. "Mama, I'm fine. Please don't cry. I can't stand to see you cry." His voice trembled as well.
A sob broke from their mother's throat. A thick, desperate choking sound. "I could have lost you, d'you understand? You could have died, and I wouldn't have even known it. Did you even think about me when you decided to disobey my rule, the one rule I have given you both, and run off? Did you think about what would happen if you never came back? How your mother and brother would feel if we never heard from you again, not knowing if you were dead or alive?"
Eret stood there, silent. He didn't know what to say, but he agreed with mother. If Hiccup hadn't been so lucky… Eret knew that he and Valka would have spent the rest of their days frantically searching for Hiccup. When Hiccup looked at him, the boy flinched at Eret's stony expression.
Hiccup lowered his gaze back to the ground, utterly ashamed. The apple of his throat bobbed and dipped. Through the auburn fringe of hair, Eret could just barely see thick tears streaming down his brother's face, before dripping down his chin to wet the hard-packed dirt.
"Oh, Hiccup…" Valka swept the younger boy up into a tight embrace. Hiccup clung to his mother, tear-stained face nuzzling in the crook of his mother's neck. The woman absent-mindedly stroked the tangled curls of auburn hair; Eret saw that his mother was shaking. "You shouldn't have left. You don't know what is out there."
A sniffle. "I'm sorry, mama."
The only response was a tender kiss to the temple, before Valka removed herself from the hug, holding her son an arm's length apart to inspect him over. "Are you hurt?" She asked, her tone softening with concern. "I was so scared… if they had found you…"
Hiccup looked up at her with confusion. "Mother?"
"It's nothing, Hiccup." She gave him a warm, care-free smile that might have been genuine had it not been contradicted by the shaking in her fingers as she stroked away strands of hair that got in the boy's eyes. Hiccup turned his gaze to helplessly look at Eret for help.
Perhaps now it was time for a mediator. "Hiccup and Toothless are fine, see? No cuts or bruises, and all limbs are intact." A bit shaken up, and exhausted, but otherwise in good health. If Hiccup didn't look one second away from collapsing on his feet, there might have been a high chance Eret would have hit him upside the head for the fright the boy had given their mother.
Never before had Eret ever seen his mother so angry, or so terrified.
And that truly was what Valka was experiencing at the moment. She was afraid, so much so she shook. What could make a woman who could stare death in the eyes without blinking shake so terribly? What was in the Barbaric Archipelago that could scare her so greatly?
Mother's behavior truly befuddled him. Anger, he could make sense of. In all honestly, he felt the same; how could Hiccup have been so foolish to disobey mother's order and venture south to an unknown land plagued with a population that would willing butcher them?
Anger, he understood. But fear?
Fear was something he had not expected. Eret had never seen his mother afraid before. It was an alarming new experience.
"Mother?" He asked, taking careful steps to keep his tone gentle.
It seemed to snap the woman out of her daze, as she quickly removed her hands from Hiccup's shoulders and took a step away. Valka straightened her posture as she appeared to gather herself, the softness of a mother's face receding into the sharp, severe face of the woman who lead them.
"You and I will fly down south and see if we can find the source of this creature's location." Valka addressed him. Her eyes were no longer watery, but sharp with determination. "The Alpha has already spoken of his intentions, and thus will come with us as well. It might very well be another Alpha or Queen, depending. We will gather the dragons who are willing for combat."
That sounded reasonable. It would be the first time the Alpha had joined them in combat, though the occasion was rare enough that all instances could be counted on one hand.
"You," Valka leveled a stern look towards her youngest son that borderlined between unkind and vindictive. "-will stay here. There will be no flights out of this Nest while the Alpha is away. Only daily trips to the fishing spots for feeding, and that is it."
Eret glanced over at Hiccup, half-expecting to see the boy puffed up in anger and ready to fight tooth and nail against his mother's words. Yet, judging by his ashen-face and tired, defeated eyes, it appeared that his experience with rebellion had taught him obedience.
"With the Alpha gone and our numbers depleted, defending the Nest will be harder than ever. If Drago were to discover this, it could be devastating." The dragon trappers had yet to discover where the Nest was located due to the inability to track the vigilantes' path and its isolated area. But it was better to be safe than sorry. "The Alpha will freeze over the water surrounding the Nest and create enough obstacles on the perimeter to prevent ships from navigating through."
"When do we leave?"
"Whenever the Alpha deems it so… but I have a bad feeling in my gut…. Whatever happens, it must happen soon. It might even be something we have never encountered before." Valka said with no small amount of irritation. Eret could understand her frustration. Never before had something like this happened. Their enemy had always been distinct and easily identifiable. Yet, this situation seemed to have nothing to do with Drago or his dragon trappers at all. They were flying into the situation without a clear idea of what was about to happen or even what they would occur. "We must prepare for the worst."
What are we getting ourselves into? He wondered, even as he gave his mother a determined nod. There would be no failure. Eret would not stand the idea of disappointing the woman that had saved his life, or to fail at protecting his home. Whatever this threat was in the Barbaric Archipelago will be met with fire and fury the likes of which the region had never seen.
"Well," Eret's lips curled into a tight, crooked smile. "Let's get started then."