Hello! A few things before we start:
A note to the readers: It's been a long time since I posted a full-length fic. Though I've written dozens and dozens of deviation summaries, I've decided (more like been bamboozled) into writing another out. This was my NaNoWriMo project so it's at least 50K words and divided into four storytelling quadrants: Vakti, Vera, Koma, Gildi. That said, I might be a bit inconstant with updates and I apologize for that.
Please understand: This story follows Astrid Hofferson's POV. It takes place right after she and Hiccup discovers the nest. Earlier that day she hated Hiccup and I'm going to keep her character as constant with her movie, canon self as I can. Same with Hiccup. This is not a romance story. This story does, however, contain gory and uncomfortable situations in the future. Be warned.
Disclaimer: I do not own HTTYD or the characters
It felt as though she had been plunged in the Ice Rivers of Hel. And, for a time, she nearly believed it. The row of the sea helped gull her into the half-dream; a rhythmic roll of salt and sand and lapping water that stroked her senses. A ruffle cracked the wind—a harshly shaken cloth. Then the popping: like tiny twigs under boots… or the snapping of dry bones.
Her skin felt stiff—and not only from the cold that had managed to seep through her clothes, through the fine hair of her arms, only to settle on her bones and weigh down every limb like sap on a tree. She felt stiff and frail, as though she were made of glass, as though the smallest movement would wound her.
She would have closed her mind, pulled away from her senses, and slept, if not for the unsettling sense of urgency and the sheer discomfort, telling her that she had to get up immediately.
Something horrible had happened. The pain and exhaustion and the soul-deep ache that acute fear always seemed to leave was keeping her from shutting out the world, as she so terribly desired to do.
Astrid's first breath felt acrid. She convulsed, and the coughing that followed sent her into a mind-blanking fit of agony that only ended when she forced herself to lie still. Sharp pebbles dug into her face. She felt twisted.
She swallowed and wondered if her throat had cracked from the inside; even the words felt dry as she tried to sound out a weak cry for help.
Heavy eyelids peeled apart and darkness greeted her—a burning black that watered her eyes and left her senses rattled.
Astrid lay still, keeping her breathing mute and calm as her vision adjusted. Swirling grey mixed in, lighter and lighter until she could make out the cloudy night skies and thick smoke.
She waited until she heard nothing outside of water and popping and rushing air. Then Astrid stretched her neck to peer around with wet, stung eyes. She was on a beach of some kind, with the horizon blotted out by the air of destruction. Shadows of every depth darkened the smoke like a spotted coat. Small fires provided the only source of light that cut through the night; they dotted the sand and brush, of every size, and none man-made.
Astrid didn't know what was feeding the flames, but something putrid met her nose. Something more than the fumes of destruction. Something toxic. Like poisoned meat.
Her ears drew back as the crackle of her surroundings gained sense. Fire. It was fire she heard mixing in with the water at her feet.
Fire… roaring, rushing, spinning, heat…
She had fallen into fire.
The coughing returned. Astrid felt a blade bury itself into her side with every involuntary breath and knew her ribs were damaged.
Even as her body spasmed, she struggled to pull herself to her knees, arms shaking. Rocks embedded in her skin fell loose with the slow rise. Her knuckles were as scraped and bare as she imagined her face must be—the part that skidded across the pebbled beach as she was thrown from the dragon.
The impact. Her head knocking against the saddle.
She tightened her gut and throat against another cough. The air burned her freezing skin. Her arms were red, raw, and blistered.
They fell. Fire. Unreal heat clawing at every exposed piece of flesh as she clung to leather and scale. Not Hiccup. Hiccup was—
Astrid hissed as a twisted shoulder-guard dug into burned flesh. She reached across her chest, taking another stab of pain to her ribs for the movement, and ripped it off. The shoulder of her tunic tore.
Snapping silence bled through twisting tendrils of smoke, and with the dark silhouettes too far to make out, too close for comfort, her mind lulled into flashes of earlier.
Screaming. Draconic screams. Outraged and unforgiving—a melody of terror that punctuated Hiccup's silence.
"Toothless?" The rasp cost Astrid another unnecessary spasm of pain through her torso. Her jaw clenched.
The hair on the back of her neck rose. She couldn't remember… she couldn't remember anything after falling. What happened to Hiccup… If the dragon died or survived…
Escaped or remained…
Astrid dragged her feet under her and, with a soft grunt, she pushed herself up. Dizziness took hold immediately. Her body screamed for water and sleep. Mostly water. Her mind wanted comfort and company.
"Toothless?" Astrid whispered again, delicate to her injuries. She stumbled through the miasmic atmosphere with shallow breath and pain tearing across her lungs. "Hic—Hiccup?"
Her feet sounded entirely too loud but she hadn't the strength to control her weight. The screams—roars—whatever—of that beast felt fresh and loud in her memory. Fear clung to her spine like a leech she couldn't shake.
'It could still be here,' her thoughts whispered, hauntingly. The Queen, she had called it. Hiccup had laughed; a humoring chuckle more than anything else, with his white-knuckled grip on the saddle betraying the adrenaline pumping through his veins from their fresh escape. He was mid-laugh when they noticed the Queen had followed them. Astrid remembered: her heart had barely calmed from the terror of discovering the nest before it picked up speed again upon glancing over her shoulder.
She'd never forget the way it came from the shadows. There were so many eyes; it was remarkable that Astrid could remember the hatred within them, in the dark, with their closing distance, amidst a body the size of her entire village—she could see its rage with exceptional clarity. It was the sort of memory that would spark up in the quiet moments, uninvited, for the rest of her life.
Astrid allowed herself a brief cough and a weak sniffle. She took the pain that came with both actions and hobbled on. Her knees ached. Her ankle seemed to vibrate with fragility and she knew it must have been twisted in the impact of being thrown.
One thing haunted her above all else: She hadn't seen it die. The Queen.
Coldness closed around her throat and Astrid stumbled forward, squinting through stinging ash as she tussled through clipped memories, hoping to find some proof that they were safe from the beast. She couldn't. She did not see its death. She did not see if it perished in the explosion or if it crawled away in the veil of smoke, and that made every crunch of rock beneath her foot, every hair-raising length of silence, so much worse.
She speared the rising smoking with caution, body shaking, heat leached from her skin. Her mouth tasted of blood. She might have loosened a tooth, but her tongue felt too dry, too laden, to check properly.
A bird called from somewhere far into the smoke.
Astrid bit down a shriek. How could anything have survived this wreckage? But she supposed there had to have been some life on this island beforehand.
The pounding in her temple sharpened. Had there been green she spotted just before they ascended into the clouds? She couldn't be sure anymore. She felt her grip on reality slipping; she swore her mind was playing tricks on her. This could still be a dream—all of it: Hiccup and the Night Fury. The monster in the volcano. Maybe this was Hel. Or maybe she hadn't followed Hiccup in a fit of rage and was back on Berk, in her bed, safe, and only enduring a nightmare.
The fear seeded in her belly spread and tightened with crushing certainty as she came upon a looming shadow; a black wall rippled behind thick air. Shifting smoke refused to reveal any details lest she step closer, but the smell of flesh heightened, malign and choking. The very, very weak hope that what she stood before was a small mountain, or a cluster of tall trees, failed to take.
She hadn't seen it die.
Astrid took a step back. Something glinted through the smoke. A tooth?
It might be Her. Injured but waiting.
Maybe it would move. Lurch. Kill her.
She tried to backpedal faster without losing her footing or making too much noise. She could taste her own terror in the back of her throat like sick. She could feel the rattle of her breath and quake of her legs, and a deep, miserable ache in the core of her palm that demanded wood and metal.
Her axe was on Berk—where she should have been, rather than this nightmare.
Every shift of atmosphere caused the shadow to shimmer and waver. The quick pull in her muscles screamed at her to bolt. To turn and run.
She squared sideways, keeping half an eye on the motionless, dark mass, and walked in another direction. Nothing came after her, not as she teetered across uneven land, hating the heavy, rasp of her breath, unable to breathe through her nose, which seemed clogged by blood.
The dark wall dimmed as white smoke filtered between them until Astrid was once more left in a sea of floating gray and burning wreckage. She moved onward, though she didn't know the layout of whatever island they crashed into. She remembered spinning and rising, barely grasping her surroundings. She might have seen a bright line of sand… a dark mass of trees… spikes of rock…
They had gone south to Helheim's Gate—she knew that much—then back north. They hadn't made it far before the Queen came plowing after them like a nightmare. Six enraged eyes and a mouth open and ready to swallow them whole. Hiccup had dove and risen, swerved in and out between jets of fire, and Astrid held onto him. She squeezed his thin chest and kept her head down, hating that she couldn't do much other than shout warnings. She had gotten so lost in that moment. She had no idea—no idea—where they were.
Astrid's feet slowed as another silhouette came into focus—one roughly the size of a wagon. A stark shadow amidst pale smoke. She slowed only for a second, then something thumped in her chest and Astrid limped faster, favoring her left leg as she hopped to the closed, bat-like wings.
"Toothless—!" She doubled over; the call cost her.
Astrid gripped her side, grit her teeth against a cough, and finished closing the distance at a stumbled crouch until her knees hit earth and her ankle flared with pain. She reached out and touched the hard, cocooned black wings.
She knew he wasn't dead. She saw the lump rise and fall with labored breathing and she refused to believe it a trick of guttering flame. Her touch sparked more movement and, with a low moan, the dragon pulled his head from his wing. He blinked at her, pupils stretching across green irises in the dark. Astrid didn't allow herself to indulge in her relief long.
"Toothless, we ha—ah!—," her side kicked in the excitement and she gripped, again, at the torn tunic, "—ve to find… Hiccup."
Toothless whined again at something Astrid couldn't yet see. His top wing lifted, cracking open the dark shell around his body. Wrapped in thick, scaled limbs lie a very still Hiccup. Astrid sat on her heels and stared at the mop of brown hair burrowed into Toothless' chest. The muted joy of finding Toothless melted into something sharp and sour that clung to the back of her tongue.
She swallowed. "Is he—?"
Toothless loosened his hold as Astrid reached forward, pulling the motionless boy closer and laying him out so she could properly look at him.
Pale, she saw, incredibly pale. His face was scraped but intact, mouth bloodied enough for Astrid to feel torn between a bit tongue or internal damage. She ran her hands down his neck and chest, further pulling him from Toothless' grip with barely-conscious gentleness. She placed her ear to his mouth but found the hammering of her heart in her ear, the prickling chill of her own skin, too distracting to discern breath.
"I think he's breathing," she muttered, "but…" She shifted to his chest, pressing her ear against thin ribs—also intact. Something beat back at her.
"He's alive." She whispered and lifted herself back with a winded wince. "He's freezing," she went on, patting his head, shoulders, chest, sides, "but he seems to be—"
The rest of her diagnosis crystalized in her throat like hard, digging spikes. The gritty sand of the beach dug into her shin. Her ankle throbbed. Her face felt stiff and wrong. She couldn't get enough air into her lungs without shifting a broken bone.
Yet, Astrid couldn't take her eyes away from Hiccup's foot. Or, what used to be his foot, now mangled beyond recognition. Everything below his left ankle appeared flattened, fluffs of his boot clinging to blood and bone. The pant leg was torn and the exposed skin blistered with the thick, thick red that seemed to touch everything. Not just red with blood but also with the flesh beneath, stripped of skin.
And black. Flecks of black.
White. Seeping, bubbling—
She couldn't afford to vomit; her ribs would never allow it. Astrid clasped a hand to her mouth and closed her eyes and tried, with every fiber of her being, not to breath in the sulfur, not to envision Hiccup's leg and associate it with the smoky, acrid taste of the air. Her stomach heaved and she bore the pain of her spasming torso for what felt like an eternity.
The dragon cried out in a way Astrid had only ever heard a maimed dragon cry. He had twisted enough to see Hiccup's foot, left wing still outstretched toward the sky.
"He's… okay." Astrid croaked. She reached out—thoughtless—and placed a hand on Toothless' brow. "He'll be… I'll see what I can do."
Toothless whimpered. He didn't acknowledge Astrid's touch; he rubbed his nose against Hiccup's temple, added a small lick to the ruffled hair, and moaned again. The noise warbled and pitched at the end and something in Astrid's chest grew taut.
She hovered over Hiccup, feeling her own panic heighten.
"Let me… just let me…"
Shit. She didn't know enough about healing arts. She'd always been focused on offense, on dishing and taking, but never treating. She'd taken Gothi for granted. She'd taken her mother and brother for granted. Someone had always been around to patch her up. She wasn't prepared for this. She wasn't trained.
"I have to set it," she mumbled. "I need to align the bone as… as best I can." She'd mess it up. This wouldn't end well. "And… and wrap it. We'll need clean water. Cloth." She felt dizzy in naming the list, as though thinking were too hard. "There's water over there…" Salt water. She'd have to cleanse it.
She felt her pouch, still hard against her hip, with an absent, patting hand and reached in, hoping to find something useful. The first thing she felt was sharp and rough and her fingers emerged with a small whetting stone caught between them.
"I have this. Ah, flint rocks, too, but you got that covered, right Toothless?" She spoke only in a whisper. Any louder and her ribs would go from a dull ache to full blown agony.
Fire and a sharpening device were at her disposal. A start.
Nothing else rattled in the pouch and Astrid felt her heart sink. She stared at the meager collection of stone wondering what she could possibly do with them. Her eyes fell to her red-knuckled hands fisted in her leggings and the battered skin of her arms, no longer protected.
"And these-!" She pulled off the scrapped remains of her armbands. It was cloth, and cloth would be useful.
She placed them with the stones, between herself and Toothless, and looked.
"We have the saddle and metal scraps, I guess," she mused aloud, "but I'm not much good with it…"
Hiccup was good with it. Too bad he was useless. If she hadn't pressed her ear to his ribs Astrid might have thought him dead. His breaths were shallow, chest hardly moving.
She considered the straps crossing his tunic, frayed and blackened, but strong.
"Hiccup's harness, I suppose…" More leather strips. They might come in handy too.
A scaled lip curled and rattled with a low growl. One of Toothless' heavy-palmed forelegs outstretched over Hiccup's chest protectively. Astrid grimaced back at him.
"What's important is that we survive. Hiccup can make new ones once we save him."
Toothless pulled his head back marginally. His lip dropped and his earfins perked. Astrid wondered if the word 'save' placated him. She noticed the chipped scales over Toothless' leg, some seeping with a dark green liquid, and followed the limb to larger patches across his shoulder and neck.
"Are you hurt?"
She couldn't believe she hadn't thought to ask earlier. The dragon seemed otherwise whole and unharmed, save for the twisted metal wrapped around his tail, though he hadn't bothered with any attempt to stand or extract himself from Hiccup.
Toothless looked at her—large, evocative eyes searching her face—before he turned back towards Hiccup and moaned miserably. Astrid might have found his solitary focus on Hiccup endearing if it weren't so sad.
"You can't fly, can you?" she asked. She saw the half-tail. "No."
They wouldn't be flying back home, lest another dragon arrived and Toothless convinced it to help. Even then, Toothless himself would be trapped and something—other than the obvious debt she found herself owing the dragon—told Astrid leaving him wasn't an option. That she'd never be forgiven.
"You keep him warm and—," she wouldn't say alive. She needed the dragon calm and compliant "…safe. I'll go find supplies… I'll figure something out."
She braced her palms on the ground, watching as Toothless stretched his wing over Hiccup and the boy disappeared from view once more.
Smoke and debris kept the air thick; flame-devoured wreckage popped in every direction, unseen. Astrid squinted back at the shadow she had seen earlier—the wall she knew in her gut to be the Queen dragon.
"Is she out there?" she asked. She could taste the ashen air more than ever. "Is she…?"
Toothless cast her a glance with his nose still buried under his wing—probably cold against Hiccup's neck—and made a soft barking noise. It sounded unconcerned. Not frantic. Either he didn't care if she were murdered by a revenge-bent Hel-dragon or he was assuring her that the Queen wasn't there.
He repeated the noise.
Astrid pushed herself to her feet. Everything hurt—from the weight on her ankle, to the stab in her lungs, to the stiff, cracking, inflexible pull of her skin.
"Okay. Okay then… I'll find supplies." It helped to say things out loud, despite the pain of talking. It made her feel less alone.
There wasn't much she could do for herself other than clean her own wounds, but her care would come later. She could walk and she could speak and both were a sight better than Hiccup.
"I'll find forest." She saw one; tiny and inland, a cluster of something. She swore she saw one… "Keep him warm, Toothless. Can you do that for now?"
Toothless closed his eyes and tucked his head beneath his wing, joining Hiccup in a nest away from reality. At a distance, Astrid imagined they looked like nothing more than an unusually dark boulder.
She stifled the odd yearn and near envy to crawl under that wing, told herself she wasn't purposefully excluded. She dearly wished for warmth and rest; a desire that took the strength from her legs and loosened something in her chest enough to choke her. She left them, needing to keep busy. Resting wasn't an option. Indulging in an incomprehensible need for comfort wasn't an option.
Astrid shuffled further from the rhythmic break of waves. The cold picked up as she left her only source of companionship.
"Build a fire," she whispered through numb lips. Heat. They needed heat. "Wood. Rocks. I need rocks."
Maybe she could make a bowl? Heat the water. She had nothing to heat water in… but there were rocks and a forest nearby. She'd think of something. She'd find something. She had to find something. The top of an acorn, even.
There was… bone.
Her feet stopped before she registered the mountain behind the fog. Through the rising smoke, the putrid, flecking remains of half a jaw came into visibility.
The hair on the back of her neck rose, even as the smoke continued to move, even as she saw there was no top jaw, no complete head. A concave face, lighted by jumping flames, smoldering remains that stretched nearly as high as the steps to the Mead Hall, ropey insides spilling and dark…
She was dead—the Queen. She had to be dead.
It didn't stop Astrid from stumbling sideways and limping towards the smattering of trees—or what she thought were trees—on the far opposite of the beach.
Wood first, something inside her, something desperate for focus, screamed. Fire and splints.
Astrid hated the irrational fear that clung to her bones in jitters and worked against everything her senses told her. She hated anything that left her impeded in a time of need, and yet, she couldn't look at the Queen. She couldn't breathe in her remains. She was going to be sick when she couldn't afford to be sick. She couldn't afford to struggle with air or coughing—not in the current setting, with smoke that cleared far too slowly, and damaged bone pressed against her side.
Again, she worked through logistics, hoping to find a steady platform to work from. They were trapped on an island and she had no idea where other than south. North of Helheim's Gate, south of Berk. Possibly somewhere to the east.
She had to get north.
How? She had no idea.
The charcoal remains of a blackened forest came none too soon. Though silly, a new setting did ease the painful hammer of her heart, still fluttery from the shock of the Queen.
Astrid stepped through with light footing. The hollow, cindered husks that crumbled beneath her weight grew harder as she pressed on until actual wood revealed itself, broken, jutted, blackened by fire, but usable.
"Okay," she muttered, "Okay… sticks." She bent her knees to pick up the first small branch shaken from the explosion—sooted, not crisped. Even further she could see a whole forest, but she needn't walk that far. She hoped she wouldn't have to walk that far; the weakness in her body only grew as she continued to deny herself rest.
Something cawed in the distance and Astrid had a dizzying moment of deja vu.
Toothless couldn't fly.
Her eyes lost focus. She bent to pick up another stick. The bark slid roughly against her palm.
The only way home was by sea. To sail north on a… a what? A raft? A plank?
What was she thinking?
And Toothless… She couldn't abandon the dragon to the island, but she couldn't very well take him back to Berk either, could she? Unless she landed somewhere out of sight, miraculously, and worked from there. If she got to Berk.
The sea was so dangerous, so cruel. To brave it on a ramshackle raft with no knowledge of where she was going… that was foolish.
All the same, she had no choice.
The collection dug into the blisters lining her arm. Astrid bore the discomfort, unable to help but think of the blisters along Hiccup's leg. The foot. What was left of his foot was something of a nightmare. She couldn't fix it. She didn't think it could be fixed.
It was going to kill him. Hiccup was going to die.
Her breathing quickened—stomach jumping in quick little pumps. Astrid felt hysteria and ocular pressure build. She threw her weight against the nearest tree; a couple twigs fell from her weak hold.
"Don't cry," she grit. Crying wouldn't help her ribs. Crying wouldn't help Hiccup. It wouldn't get them home.
But home was so far. So incredibly far. They were probably going to die. Hiccup from infection. She from starvation or some injury she hadn't yet detected…
Astrid took a deep, slow, stabbing breath and shuddered it out through puckered lips. No.
"I won't die here," she whispered, fierce. Her eyes burned and her cheeks felt wet, but the painful lump in her throat would not find relief through sobbing. She wouldn't allow it.
Hiccup might die, yes. She couldn't care for his leg, she didn't know how. She would try, but she wouldn't let the cold reality keep her from carrying on. She had to accept this before it destroyed her.
With newfound and near-spurious mettle, Astrid went about collecting sticks until her arms couldn't take any more. She did her best to ignore the frustration and sorrow that she would likely die at sea. Not on this island—she'd keep fighting here—but once she put herself at the mercy of Ægir, she would do nothing but wait for death.
They'd find land first. They'd have to. Even if they hit the Mazy Multitudes, it would be something. Something she could work with, hopefully. A place with supplies, or lush lands unsullied by exploding dragon queens. Maybe a place with civilization and healers…
Toothless could be very useful. She could survive with his help. She wouldn't abandon him.
She needed him.
And if Hiccup died… well, she could carry on his work. Astrid owed him that much. She'd get Vikings to start approaching dragons in a new manner. They could start with the ones in the Kill Ring and work from there…
She would try, anyway.
The black, shifting mass came into visibility sooner than Astrid anticipated. The air felt clearer, her eyes stung a little less though her breathing hadn't improved. Quite the opposite: the pinch in her side had grown into a constant squeeze that crunched with every shift of her body. The effort of keeping measured breath was starting to feel constricting, a steady push towards panic, and Astrid threw all her concentration to the task at hand.
"Okay, Toothless, I'm going to build a fire with—TOOTHLESS!"
Agony ripped through her side and for a moment Astrid saw stars. The corners of her vision darkened but she refused to take her focus from the dragon. Her feet staggering forward, sticks clattering together as they fell in a heap on the gritty sand.
The dragon was twisted around again—wing lifted—and was doing his best to lick Hiccup's flattened foot.
Bile scorched her throat.
Astrid felt her stomach twist and this time she knew she wouldn't keep from vomiting. The horror from the moment she awoke hadn't left her bones, and it returned in a full, rattling force. She saw her own two hands reaching out and shoving, enfeebled, against Toothless's crown.
She nearly kneeled on Hiccup's head as she fell to his side and thoughtlessly tried to keep the dragon from consuming any more of his blood.
Toothless snapped at her, teeth out with a vicious snarl equally as sharp, and Astrid was sent stumbling backward. Another cry left her lips, this time longer, louder. She gripped her side and curled into a ball.
"T-toothless don't… don't eat him…"
She sounded pathetic to her own ears, blinded and frail as she tried to pick herself up off the ground. She grasped for logic through the image of Toothless cocooned around Hiccup's broken body, nose red with blood.
Hiccup was wrong. He was wrong.
Scratch drowning. Forget the elements or infection. They were going to be a dragon's dinner.
She shifted to get her weight back under her. Toothless appeared to sneer at her—either her weakness or her words—and lowered his stained face to hover over Hiccup's mess of a leg.
"Please," she whispered.
Toothless responded with a curt growl, then he then licked Hiccup's head in that sweet sort of gesture he'd done earlier with his eyes trained on Astrid and Astrid was suddenly struck with the impression that Toothless had no intention of eating Hiccup. He was caring for the boy in the only way he knew.
Her heart slowed. The pressure on her temples lessened.
"You—" She let out a painful breath. "Don't do that," she said, rubbing her tender side. "It's not good."
His earfins went back and he bore his teeth. He gave Hiccup's scraped nose another lick with the utmost petulance. Astrid nearly felt energized by the following surge of annoyance that flooded her limbs. She calmed further.
She brushed a long lock of grimy hair from her eyes and winced at both the pain stretched across her face and the protest in her side. "I just…don't want an infection to set in. You licking it might make things worse."
In truth, Astrid didn't know what dragon saliva would do to Hiccup's leg but she couldn't imagine it was good. Everything she'd ever known about dragons was toxic, a concern she felt confidence in given the smell of the slow-burning corpse lurking within the smoky veil she breathed.
Plus, it was gross.
Toothless snorted and Astrid pursed her lips. She wouldn't apologize for over-reacting if that's what the dragon expected. She didn't apologize to dragons; especially ones indirectly responsible for the angry throb running through her body.
"Fire," she whispered and stiffly collected the sticks she had dropped earlier. Setting a pyramid felt familiar and natural—possibly the most natural thing she'd felt in a long while. She grabbed larger stones from the gravel she knelt in without thoughts and sprinkled them around the wood. She knew it was a pointless gesture but tricked herself into thinking it helped nonetheless.
"Can you hit that up?" Toothless looked from her pointed finger to the pile of sticks and rocks. "Ah, the flames?" She used her hand to make a flamboyant spitting motion. "Fire?"
What did he want? Surely, not an apology? Gods forbid she react badly to seeing a dragon mouthing a horrific wound, after the night she had.
Annoyed, Astrid parted her lips, pasty with thirst.
Toothless spit a small blue-white shot of fire. So quickly, scaled lips stiff, mouth barely moving, that Astrid jumped.
The sticks caught immediately—a wonder of dragon flame, she supposed—but Toothless coughed, smoke rising from the corners of his mouth, then looked panicked at the small body beneath his wing.
Astrid winced. Her skin seared at the new source of heat. "How's… how's he doing?"
Toothless moaned and settled his wing back down.
He gave half a nod.
Astrid couldn't help but marvel at his intelligence. She wondered how Hiccup came to know Toothless, what steps he took to create about such a bond. She could see why, of course: the dragon could communicate. He was helpful and conscious. He was… relatable to a human. More than a mindless beast as they had been raised to believe. But then, she mused, setting a few smaller stones around the fire and piling up the left overs, they had been raised in a war. Who could blame Vikings for thinking otherwise?
"I need more rocks," she mused. "I'm going to try and… Well, I think I know what to do. Maybe."
She didn't have to say it out loud—if she hadn't become so aware of her isolation, she might have felt foolish—but Astrid took a small comfort in speaking to the dragon. Not only for the fact that he might hold some basic understanding of what she said, but also in the reinforcement that she wasn't alone. Not quite yet.
Toothless watched as she moved around, collecting stones and placing them down near the small fire she had going. Her burns prickled unpleasantly with the heat whenever she approached and snapped with cold whenever she left.
She crouched by the fire when she felt she had enough.
"I'm going to make something to hold water," she explained. "I'm going to line it with… Her scales. I need you to help heat them. Can you do that?"
Breathing fire had hurt him, hadn't it? She needed Toothless's help; she was banking on it. He'd have to push through, as she had been doing.
Astrid used a flat stone to scoop in the sand until she'd formed a small basin, ignoring the discomfort of her ribs in favor of thought.
It could have been a shot limit, she mused. Toothless used… how many in that fight? Eight? Hiccup might have figured it out—the Night Fury's shot limit.
Astrid could add that to the list of things she'd never learn because Hiccup was probably going to die.
She paused in her digging, hands moist, fingers inflexible and tinged blue. She held them out to the fire, ignoring the stitch running across the surface of her forearms, as though her burns were being split, in favor of soothing her fingers. She glanced at Toothless, then at the mop of saliva-dampened hair visible beneath the wing. Her gaze shifted toward the carcass in the distances—the closest part: jaw and neck. She'd need… she'd need a blade to remove the scales. She didn't have one but…
Astrid crawled forward.
"Toothless, I need to see Hiccup. He has something I need."
She hoped. He always had it. His laughable little blade. She made fun of him for it once, many years ago. He had upset her and she mocked the weapon he carried in his belt.
Now she depended on it.
Toothless lifted his wing and Astrid did everything in her power to avoid her gaze drifting down Hiccup's body. She focused on his middle, parting his singed vest.
He doesn't have his furs, she noted as she dug around his belt. Damn. He could have used the warmth. Hiccup was too pale. Had his breathing grown shallower in the time passed? She couldn't tell. She was useless in the healing arts and it only added to her mounting vexation.
The blade wasn't on his left side, but his right.
He's a lefty, she recalled. Another thing she had stung him over in the past.
She stood with some effort, hand gripped around the short handle and its unfamiliarity, and decided they could call it even when she saved them both.
The smoggy air dispersed enough for Astrid to make out the dead dragon's silhouette from their little camp.
She inhaled for courage—then cried out.
Toothless's head shot up, ear-plates flat against his skull.
"I'm okay-!" Astrid wheezed. Shit, even squinting was starting to hurt. Maybe she had more damage than just her ribs. She noticed the burns on her arms bleeding. Probably from the sticks.
Hiccup first. Then her.
"I'll get them. The," she gasped, "scales. Just… stay with Hiccup."
She moved off, limping across a familiar trail. The backs of her knees felt stiff, like they wanted to bend and crumple from her weight. She wanted to lie down and sleep, so badly that Astrid felt another ridiculous bolt of envy for Hiccup, warm in Toothless's wings.
She approached the mountainous remains. The Queen. This time, fear didn't send her shuffling sideways. When the atmosphere thinned and cleared, Astrid stared upon the torn body with a tightened stomach and a clenched fist over the dagger. Bone loomed. Sinews trailed across dismembered parts like rope bridges. Dark, thick matter, what she assumed was blood, congealed around every piece. A portion of the neck hung from the lower half of the face like the gargantuan, rolled drapes of Jötunn.
Astrid stepped closer and gingerly touched the hide. Her fingers jumped at the sensation—neither cool nor warm. The scales might have been the size of her shoulder guard and there were thousands of them coating the throat alone, layered and patterned.
She followed the trail of body descending further into the mists. A chunk of arm. A couple of claws pitched into the earth. The tail and top half of the head were not within her line of sight but there was a mess, just barely visible, that still steamed and puttered beyond the sagging, collection of neck hide she touched; a flattened, torn stomach that now lay spread across half a mile of land in tangled hills of entrails and bone.
Astrid noticed the insides and wondered if it was edible. Berk didn't eat dragon, but surely there were some cultures that did. She wondered if she could use anything else on the carcass to help them survive or escape.
Did dragon bone float? People made weapons out of them on occasion, but not boats.
She nixed the thought as soon as it came to her. Nothing on this beast would be in her power to move. It was too large.
No, if they were getting off the island, they would need a raft. A wood raft.
But the corded intestines…
Astrid stepped away from the jaw and squinted at the nameless organ coiled.
They were large, but could be cut into strips. The lining alone should be durable… If they were useful in other animals surely a dragon's would be too.
Astrid glanced back at their camp, where she'd left her discarded arm wraps. Those would come in handy as well, if she didn't need them for Hiccup.
Feeling slightly better just by having the skeletal, if jumbled, plan in mind, Astrid lifted Hiccup's dagger, bearing the agony of her broken ribs, and started to hack at the coat of tightly knit scales.
Heat seawater. Help Hiccup. Build raft. Don't die.
A/N: Things are slow and confusing as Astrid works through waking upon her situation, please bear with me. Again, this is Astrid's journey and will focus on her. 24 hours ago she hated both Hiccup and dragons so please do not fall under any ridiculous, false assumptions that this will turn into a romance fic. I care about these characters far too much.
A ginormous thanks goes out to jenna-sais-pas for volunteering to beta this story. Y'all would be slodging through horrendous grammar without her. She is incredible.
And thanks for reading this far, you troopers! Hopefully I haven't scared everyone off from pressing on.