Warning: Again, that there are some graphic descriptions ahead. Thanks for reading!

Vakti II

"Okay."

When Astrid next approached Camp Black Boulder, it was with arms full of rough-hewed dragon scales and a wild pain gripping her very bones. Her ankle worsened and her limp grew more pronounced with exaggerated movements that only inflamed her side.

Toothless seemed to shake upon her arrival. He'd probably fallen asleep, somehow.

Astrid narrowed her eyes. "He alive?"

Toothless snorted, blinked, and lowered his head. His eyes followed scales scatter to the ground, dropped from her burdened arms.

The fire continued to dance, its heat limited, and its light dulled by the cloudy air. Astrid avoided it, its presence a reminder of the burns across her skin.

She got right to business and began collecting as many of the rocks around Toothless as she could find. There were rumors of beaches with sand so fine it felt like water beneath bare feet; fortunately, this was not one such beach. The sand was hard and thick and gravelly with stones and driftwood and usable debris. She nudged rocks with her feet or tossed them with her hands—whichever caused less pain, until a small, irregular pile grew around the hole she'd scraped out earlier by the fire.

She glanced over each rock she chose, searching for a possible sunstone. She nearly smiled at the thought. Yes, a miraculous tool to help her survive, out here in the wreckage of an unbelievable battle. Of course she'd find a navigation stone. What was wrong with her?

A twisted scrap of metal lying among the rocks caused Astrid to pause for a moment. She lifted an absent hand to her shoulder—suddenly flared with pain—and felt that it was bare, bloodied, and pierced. The fall must have violently detached her shoulder guard.

Darkness, impact, pain

Astrid left the scrap. There didn't seem to be any good use for it, twisted as it was. Instead, she returned to the fire, fingers loosening the last of her gathered rocks, and peered at Toothless.

He'd saved her, hadn't he?

She knelt in the sand, her breathing shallow, taking the pain with the movement.

Before she truly blacked out, things had gone dark. Hiccup had been dislodged, but not her. She had seen it…

She gripped the saddle, reaching, Toothless twisted and

As though sensing her stare, the dragon picked his nose out of his wings, out of Hiccup's hair, and blinked at her. Astrid looked down, face hot for reasons beyond that of the tormenting fire, and busied herself with lining her dugout with stone.

She tired quickly. Was it perspiration or blood bedewing her forehead? Perhaps even the clear seepage that she spotted on Hiccup's leg earlier... Exactly what sort of condition her face was in was unknown, only that it hurt and that she didn't want to touch it, because touching it would mean dealing with it and she couldn't deal with it. Not yet. Not when it felt stiff and stretched like slow tearing fabric, the cracks either blistering, or sharp with cold. There was no way to tell, and no way she could handle another worry.

Removing the scales from the Queen had proven to be work her body wasn't ready to undertake. Every lift of her arm cut off air. She grew dizzy and slow. Thirst made her tongue heavy and swollen. She'd have to rest soon. She'd have to stop caring about Hiccup or Toothless or her situation and lay down. She came close to crying twice and in any other circumstance she'd never reconcile falling victim to emotional release with so much on the line, but the hopelessness and the tragedy of her situation would rear up again and again, woven so tightly into reality that she couldn't trick herself into ignoring its build.

And it was happening again.

Astrid gave a light shake and focused on her task, squinting through the blurriness of her vision. One step at a time was the only way to make any sort of progress. She was going to get off of that island, and that was a promise. It wasn't over.

It wasn't over, yet.

She pressed the collected stones into the hole she dug earlier, starting with the largest and filling in every crack she could with the smaller stones. Then she took the scales and began lining the rocks with the plate-like disks. Some were as wide and round as her face. Some larger. She grabbed a fist-sized stone and tried to hammer the lined scales into a tight, bowl shape.

"How's it look?"

Toothless's gaze flicked from the weird "ground basin" she'd tried to construct back to Astrid.

She would have sighed if her ribs would allow it.

"Can you try and heat these?" she asked, gesturing to the green-black plates. "I'll be back."

She picked up the most warped scale, nearly the length of her forearm and with a depression that could hold about a tankard worth of mead. She set off toward the ocean. The sound of Toothless spitting flame followed her into the mists.

The immediate loss of the fire soothed her burns and stole the little breath she had. Goosebumps flooded whatever healthy skin remained.

The walk was short—shorter than the one to the ruined forest in the opposite direction. The rolling waves called like a gentle whisper, even as she found the shoreline. Waves would not be an immediate issue. She could only guess at how much time had passed but it seemed that nothing about the sea's volume had altered. No tide was good. No tide meant it was one of the calmer seas.

The Sullen, perhaps. The Sullen would be ideal

She paused at the shore to see if any other landmasses could be detected.

Blackness.

Not even a horizon was visible. They were too far from sunrise and the sea too deep.

The smoke of the explosion had, however, cleared enough for her to see the sky. Still cloudy, but the constellations emerged like awakening eyes. Within seconds she saw Mimir's Horn blinking right before her.

Breathless for another reason entirely, Astrid turned her gaze left. One by one the stars of Aurvandil's Toe materialized. Then the Kvennavagn, and then…

She strained. The Polestar flickered, in and out of passing clouds, faint but there.

If she turned, if the sky behind her cleared more, she'd hopefully see the Ratatosk.

For the first time that night—a veritable lifetime— the pain in her chest eased and something light and fluttery filled her broken ribs. Something an awful lot like hope.

Her heel pressed into the sand and she drew an arrow diagonal to her body position. That path. If they followed that path they should head towards Berk. Or something along the way.

Astrid returned to the "camp" with the precarious dish of scooped sea water and dumped it on the shallow basin of scale and rock. The hope that Toothless' fire would have welded the overlapped scales together faded. She found enough satisfaction in the plume of steam rising with its terrible hiss and didn't stick around to see how well the basin held.

It took four more trips, the water barely holding but the level rising, before Astrid deemed the collection usable and dropped the bowed scale.

"Open your wing Toothless," she ordered. The collection of heated salt water rocked and steamed. It wouldn't be there for long.

She took a moment to remove her skirt. Squirrel skulls scattered across the sand but Astrid doubted they'd ever be much use anyway—save for throwing at any potential predators that survived the crash. She was left in nothing but her leggings and tunic. It was a bit indecent, but thankfully warmer than when she first awoke. Astrid knelt back in the sand and began to cut away at the stitching that tied the leather pads to her skirt.

"I need your help—"

Toothless fired at the basin.

Astrid yelped. Water, hard earned water, splashed onto the sand.

"Not—no!" She spoke strong enough for a crunching stab in her side, but had gotten too used to ignoring it. "I need you to help with step two." Getting off the island. "I'm going to do what I can for Hiccup, but I need you to go that way," she pointed toward the forest, "and get logs. Wood. Parts of trees. Long branches."

Anything flat would be too much to hope for, but she could work with anything floatable and directable.

Toothless stared at her. She might have cried, but instead focused on locating the arm wraps she shed earlier, all the while thinking: Please know what wood is.

She found the wraps at her heels and picked them up, giving them a light shake before dropping them into the water.

"I need to build a raft." She gestured to her right, to the sea, with her knife. "Something we can float away on." Her hand rippled through the air like a snake.

After another moment of confused staring, Astrid jabbed a finger at Toothless' tail. "You can't fly. We," she circled a finger around the three of them,

"need to travel. We need to get Hiccup to other people. He needs help."

Toothless looked down at Hiccup, plates falling flat against his head, and back at Astrid

"You have to get up and help."

This Toothless seemed to comprehend. He lowered his head to the ground and dropped his wing back over Hiccup. Astrid felt the pounding in her head aggravate. "I can watch Hiccup. We have the fire to keep him warm. I'm sorry, Toothless, but I can't do everything alone. I need your help. We both do."

Just when she was ready to concede that Toothless hadn't understood her this whole time—it had been a fluke, of course. He was just a dragon—Toothless shifted his legs beneath him and, with all the effort of an elder, came to his feet. He seemed to stagger under his own weight for a moment and Astrid felt an unintended pang of sympathy for the creature.

She had to wince at the rigging trawling metal at his back. Some of the straps on the saddle were cut and loose and dragging underfoot. They would be more useful for the raft. She almost stood and offered to remove them, but Toothless had taken a few too many steps and the ever-draining basin weighed on her mind.

She'd take them later.

Astrid could have worried over what Toothless might bring back (Or if he would come back. How easy would it be for him to abandon a pair of doomed humans?) but the daunting task ahead pushed the Night Fury from her mind as soon as he was out of sight.

"Okay, Hiccup. Let's get this over with."

With the knife held ready against her palm and thumb, Astrid began picking out bits of shredded boot and peeled back Hiccup's pant leg as gently as she could. She cut away hindering fabric, a putrid, overpowering smell slamming into her senses as she worked.

Her eyes watered. She winced at the foaming puss exposed in her removal of his clothing. How long had this been festering? How long had she been out?

A few hours, probably. The sun had set when they made it to the Nest—an unexpected surprise. The chase had felt like an eternity but likely only lasted minutes. She had passed out before the moon reached its peak and had awoken into darkness. Hours.

Unless days had passed, which she seriously doubted because the fires would have been out and Hiccup would have been dead.

She lifted the sodden cloth of her arm wraps from the basin and squeezed them out over Hiccup's foot. The hissing plunks, the sight of bone and broken skin laid bare as congealed blood loosened and ran into the sand, caused Astrid to recoil more than the burning against her palms. She swallowed back her unease as best she could and repeated the gentle washing.

Boiling salt water had to be good, right? Salt cleaned things and water-cleaned things…

She moved to pressing the heated, wet wraps against the wound, incredibly gently, dabbing at what remained—

Astrid abandoned her task.

Cloths fell from dead fingers as she turned to the side and heaved everything in her stomach. She spit bile, what she suspected were bits of her mother's barley cakes, and flecks of blood. She curled into a ball, pressed her head into the sand, and continued dry heaving with the scent of her own sick flooding her nostrils and sustaining the spasms of her stomach.

She moaned, gasped, then cried. Convulsions shook her body. Her ribs must have been piercing her lungs for all the throbbing torment running through her bones and throat. Her spine wouldn't straighten. Her face seared with tears. She couldn't breathe save for a single, involuntary sob that came tearing through her gullet and nose, making her taste blood and acid.

She choked and cried and hated her body for breaking just then. When she hadn't the time for it.

But Hiccup had parts of his foot missing.

Parts of his foot.

Gone.

She was missing a pair of toes herself, but it was a clean and old wound—a childhood accident quickly and properly cared for. Hiccup had three and a half toes gone if she could make any sort of judgment on the mess of twisted flesh she hadn't been prepared for. A chunk of his foot as well, if she were to imagine it full rather than flat and buckled, with lumping skin and protruding bone and flayed muscle hanging from his ankle to heel.

She couldn't fix this. There was no setting these bones because half were simply not there.

A very long moment passed where Astrid had to breathe in her own sick. Eventually her heart calmed and her body stilled and the waves of pain lessened. After another moment of sniffling into the sand she was able to push herself upward. She had to stare into the barely visible horizon with watery eyes and collect herself.

"Sorry," she whispered to the comatose boy. Hiccup remained pale and peaceful, blissfully unaware of the hellish night. Rigid with agony, Astrid picked up the filthy rags, dunked them into the slow-draining basin, and attempted to move onto gentle rubbing.

She immediately stopped when she scrubbed some of the blackness away and fresh blood bubbled out. She needed the burn to keep him from bleeding out; she knew that much. But then, the burn was dangerous in itself.

Freya help her, she needed a læknir like no other.

She released the breath from her lungs and began prodding the lump of Hiccup's foot into something somewhat resembling a foot with trembling, stained fingers. His foot would heal badly, if at all. She could accept that. It didn't stop her hands from shaking or her stomach from rolling, the taste of vomit coating her tongue.

Sniffling, parched, Astrid washed her hands and grabbed her shed skirt. She shook the sand from it. It wasn't the cleanest thing, but it had been protected from the elements of the night, sandwiched between her leggings and leather. It was all she had for a clean bandage.

She swathed Hiccup's foot, unable to keep the desperate moan from her lips when she lifted the end of his leg and swore his foot tried to fall away. She swallowed down her jumping stomach and used one of the wet rags to tie the makeshift bandage.

At least it would keep his wound from exposure. At least. It was already splotched in blood from where she had been too rough in her cleaning and it seemed like the heinous morning had amounted to nothing after all.

Distant rustling cracked Astrid from her depressing reverie but a quick glance showed that it was Toothless—not a predator, not a miraculously surviving Queen—with a branch in tow about the length of his tail and as thick as his leg, lightly scorched but certainly solid for floating. He might have ripped off a tree, for all Astrid could see.

"Oh! Oh good!" her optimism sounded as forced as it felt. She knew her tears could be heard through her clogged throat. She sniffed and shifted back from Hiccup, wiping wet, soiled hands on her filthy leggings to little avail.

Toothless dropped the branch and scuttled up to Hiccup, nearly clipping Astrid in the head with his wing.

"He'll be fine."

Her voice sounded very far away. Faint. Probably with the lingering taste of her reaction, which, thinking on it now, Astrid was sure Toothless could smell. He could smell lies for all she knew. What did she know, anyway? About dragons, about healing arts, about Hiccup…

Other than that he'd probably be dead by tomorrow.

Stop. It.

She swallowed and focused on the buckled tail-rigging wound around Toothless's spine.

"Do you want me to… get this off you?" she forced herself to say. She stood, and despite the pain in her legs and chest, decided she liked standing for that moment. She needed it. She needed to get away from Hiccup and the seeping blood.

Toothless arched from her outstretched fingertips and slunk away like a cornered cat. His lips curled and shuddered. He bore his ivory fangs.

Astrid sighed, calculated and shallow, too tired to feel the alarm of earlier.

"Toothless… I think it's hurting you. Please, it can't help us now. I won't destroy it. I just… it might be more useful off." It got Toothless to stop circling away from her. Astrid stepped closer.

"There might be parts that I can use to help Hiccup. Like… the leather bits. Or something he can lie on…"

She took another step. She could see the green of his irises reflect through the dim miasma.

"For Hiccup, then?"

The dragon stayed put, watching her with wary, heavy-lidded eyes. His pupils weren't constricted, which Astrid took as a good sign. He sniffed her fingers when they reached his nose. The heat felt like a soft mitten.

Toothless's tongue came out and darted across her forearm. The blisters reaching from wrist to elbow came to life. Astrid flew backward with a hiss.

"Don't! It—it's fine. Don't do that."

Toothless moaned and lowered his head. The span of his neck and the ties of the saddle were exposed. Astrid approached again, keeping her arms away from the Night Fury's face, and set to taking the saddle off. Parts were twisted and took some tugging that aggravated her injuries. Others fell away in pieces as soon as she untied them. The saddle itself remained whole—only the buckles and straps were truly damaged. The rigging was a mess and she doubted she could make any use of the metal, but the rope was another matter entirely…

The arm that got licked felt heavy, but oddly free of pain for a spell. Astrid tried not to wonder at the properties of dragon saliva just yet; this wasn't the time for hypothesizing or experimenting, it was the time to stick to her blades and do what she knew would work: keeping wounds clean and bandaged and a shit ton of praying to the gods.

"Alright," she breathed, dragging the last of the twisted metal from his tail. "Feel any better?"

Toothless shook his hide from his neck all the way down to his tail; fins and wings flapped like shaggy hair. Astrid smiled, but all it did was remind her how tired she felt.

"Can you get more branches? Maybe two more like this one and then smaller ones? Uh, thinner—" She motioned with her hands the width of the log and brought them closer together. "So, two like this—" she held up two fingers on one hand and pointed to the log Toothless had dragged with her other.

She nearly slapped herself a second later.

Dragons couldn't count!

"Uh, I mean—"

Gods, what was she doing? This was mad, pointless—

And Toothless was off. He moved faster without the saddle warped around his body.

Astrid watched bemused and wishful.

She waited until Toothless was out of sight before carefully stepping away.

"I'll be right back." She told Hiccup, well past feeling stupid about talking to an unconscious boy and a dragon.


########


Toothless returned with another large branch only to find Astrid with a rather large pile of gurry and a clear trail of blood leading from the carcass of the Queen. The branch dropped and he leapt to Hiccup

"Oh, he was fine," Astrid snapped. "I could see him the whole time—see?"

She brandished a bloodied hand and dagger at the partial Queen, where the shadow of her lower jaw sharpened into focus. Astrid could see everything better. The carcass. The destruction. The blackened forest and the hint of trees in the distant left. The spilling sea to her right with its dormant tide.

Astrid particularly liked the thin strip of white that broke the skyline just as it touched the water.

Toothless snorted and growled. He thumped his tail against the sand and snapped at her.

Astrid jut out her chin and hacked at the entrails in her lap with added fury.

"We don't have time to be too cautious. Hiccup needs a real healer or he won't make it."

A shrill cry followed her statement. A glance to the side showed Toothless throwing his head around and stamping harder. The dragon was throwing a tantrum and Astrid didn't know if he were berating her for her lack of medical abilities or if he loathed the mention of Hiccup dying. Either way, she didn't need an unfocused and agitated dragon on her hands, no matter how much she wanted to shake the damn creature and get him to obey her without freaking out every step of the way.

"Okay, okay! He'll make it, calm down!" Her teeth clenched with the effort of raising her voice and her jaw ached with the force it. Her temper shortened with every distinct pound against her temples. She needed water. Her blood moved too slow.

"Keep getting sticks," she ordered. "I'll work on making ties." Wet, ropey, strips of organs rolled across her lap. Hopefully they'd be enough to hold a raft together.

Toothless' tail cuffed her shoulder as he turned back to the forest. It might have been an accident, but Astrid doubted it.

Biting down the urge to throw the knife at the dragon's flank, Astrid harnessed her anger and wielded it towards cutting more thick ropes of intestines. They were slippery with a noxious odor that might have affected Astrid's weakened constitution if she didn't have so much experience hunting. It proved dangerous work for how often the knife slipped, and only its admirable sharpness kept Astrid from stabbing herself several times.

Perk of working in a forge, she supposed.

Making line out of innards seemed a less demanding task in her mind. The work was slow, desperate, and left her wondering what the jelled, green blood might do her open wounds, but it kept her busy as Toothless returned with branches. It kept her focused, from thinking about Hiccup. Mindless work never bothered her.

Frequent hand washing was required in the task, and Astrid had to return to the shoreline to refill her shoddy sink a couple times—never when Toothless was around to see Hiccup unattended, of course. The insides were resilient if her efforts in cutting them were any indication and she felt confident that she could at least make it to the next island.

After all, the archipelagoes had no huge bodies of water; she would have to run into something

The sun had nearly risen above the horizon by the time Astrid had enough timber to start laying out a foundation—a pearly globe shrouded in early haze. A chill crept up her shoulders as the morning mists rolled in to replace the fog. The air grew wet and her source of heat sputtered.

She hated asking Toothless to light another fire, still uneasy with their communication, but the last thing she needed was for Hiccup to freeze to death after all her work.

Toothless did so after returning with his twelfth branch. This one had a pale, supple bend to its thickest end, which led Astrid to believe he'd torn it from a live tree. Good. They'd need the strength.

He had, incredibly, managed to follow her instructions. Somewhat.

Astrid wasn't in the mood to hand out any congratulations. She kept her focus on her task as the sun continued to rise and worked tirelessly through the final lapful of entrails.

"'Kay," she breathed when she finished, no longer smelling death, no longer feeling the splintering burn when she dipped her hands into the dark-watered basin. "Time to—" Toothless sniffed over Hiccup's body in a steady series of quick grunts. "Yeah, you don't care."

Even speaking aloud had lost its luster as her throat grew heavy with thirst. The urge to cough kept arising. The knowledge of the pain it would bring kept it down.

An island with springs, Astrid prayed as she began the slow, breath-paced task of arranging four thinner logs. That's all I ask, Freya.

She placed the logs parallel in the sand with about half an arm's space between them. Three thickest logs were lain perpendicular across. For those, Astrid needled Toothless to help her, even snapping at him when he moved too slowly. She hated asking for help as is, she didn't need him making a difficult situation even more difficult. Couldn't he sense the urgency?

The final, thin logs were placed on top of those. Each aligning with a base branch. All the while Astrid ached for the body she'd had a day before—when lifting logs twice her length would have been a readily accepted challenge. She wanted to breathe easy and curl in her furs and feel confident in being tested.

Criss-crossing the entrail strips around each point of wood contact proved more taxing than moving branches. She had to reach down. Then up. Her body twisted and bent and stretched and no matter how slow she went, no matter how quickly she tried to move her fingers, Astrid felt the piercing agony of her broken ribs.

She had no choice. She'd made it this far. She had to

Her eyes felt as dry as her mouth by the time she stepped back. Her hands were slick and pruney and torn. She had a raft. She had a way to get off this Odin-forsaken island.

"Ha," she croaked. "Ha, ha. Okay. Oh… okay."

Astrid glanced at some of the smaller sticks left over and barely thought about what she did next. Using the leather straps cut from the saddle she tied the sticks to either side of Hiccup's leg, securing the cloth-wrapped remains of his foot as best she could. That would keep it somewhat stable.

She wiped a hand across her forehead and grimaced when it came back smeared with blood. Not green, like a dragon's. Her own.

Her face was a mess; she knew that even without a looking glass. Hiccup's was pale. Perhaps paler in the thin sunlight than it had been in the night…

She forced her gaze away.

"One more thing," she said to Toothless, who had returned to Hiccup's side, dutifully, back to nosing the boy's head, "and I'll need your help again."

She needed a paddle, and had spent a good portion of her working hours thinking over what she could use. She couldn't weld one or carve one. A stick would be useless and she hadn't the resources to build a sail.

"Come on," she beckoned, moving toward the entirely visible mess of mega dragon.

She heard rather than saw Toothless land his haunches into the sand. She turned to see his tail thump the ground. He snorted.

He wasn't leaving Hiccup.

Astrid might have anticipated this.

"We can see him from where I—" Breathe, she reminded herself, willing away the claws against her lungs. You're almost there. "I need you to bite through a bone. It won't take long. Please—I need this. I," breathe, "gotta get Hiccup to a safe place. I need a," breathe, "paddle."

Toothless' eyes widened but his ears fell back. He craned his neck around to Hiccup.

Astrid forcibly unclenched her teeth.

"Look I'll… I'll go over to where I need you," She started walking. "And then you come over. You can still see Hiccup, okay?"

Please, Toothless, she mentally sent as she approached the dead Queen.

The fear of earlier had all but subsided. It would never be gone—some provocation at the back of her mind, something humiliating, told her she would never fully be rid of the terror linked to this night. But she could stand before dismembered dragon, mountainous in size, and not lose control of herself. The worries of the night overpowered her irrationality of earlier. The act of cutting scales from its carcass, further mangling the manifestation of terror, gave her added stability. A distant sense of closure, even.

She stopped before a shredded scrap of the dragon queen's wing. Though only a portion of one wing, eaten by time and Toothless' fire and the explosion of it's own demise, it could floor the length of a stable.

Astrid walked across it and prodded one of the finer bones, ignoring the swollen, fat feeling of her ankle. That would do.

She turned and lifted her right arm. She could see Toothless. She could see Hiccup. She could see the sea and the rising sun.

Toothless could see her. They made eye contact.

For a moment, nothing happened.

Come on, Toothless

She glanced back down at the wing. Perhaps she could hack through the bone herself. It wasn't big per se. But it was thick. Even for a brittle wing bone. The effort of using Hiccup's tiny dagger against it might drive a rib through her lung and kill her. She'd have suffered through that raft for nothing…

When Astrid next looked up she saw the dark mass slinking towards her.

Thank Thor.

The tack of hope dissipated a second later. Toothless stopped. He looked back. He moved forward again. He stopped…

Astrid bit down the urge to shout at him. It wasn't a great distance.

"Toothless, it'll be quick." She didn't raise her voice. He could hear her just fine. "Please. The faster you do this, the faster you can go back."

His trotting picked up speed. Well, he stopped looking back, at least.

"Right here," Astrid said once he arrived. She pointed with her foot exactly where she needed him. "I just need you to bite the bone in half. Right here. I can do the rest."

Toothless didn't acknowledge her tapping toe. He slid past her, wings rising, shoulders hunched. He claws no longer made noise in the sand. He began to hiss.

"Tooth—"

The hiss turned into a drawn, high-pitched wail that sent a long conditioned shock of alarm up her spine. Astrid silenced and took a step back. It went on and on, piercing her ears, raising the hair of her arms. The scales running down the length of Toothless' spine appeared to rattle.

Toothless fired a plasma blast at the Queen's largest remaining bone, that mountainous, lower jaw. There was a flash of blue before the explosive impact. Blood and bone showered the smoking field of carnage. Remaining chunks of gum and hide rolled away like a rockslide, shedding more skeletal teeth.

Astrid stood to the side, unable to feel annoyed about the loss of more time. She understood.

Toothless let out a belly-deep, primal roar that shook the very air and instantly reminded Astrid that he was now the most dangerous creature on that land. She felt his rage. His self-loathing. His desperation.

She understood, perfectly, the need for retribution.

Her own need for it landed her here.

A chill swept her bare shoulders. She breathed through it.

"Come on," she muttered, taking another step back. "Real quick."

Toothless seemed to spit at the Queen before turning away, like a violent snort. A gesture Astrid, as a human, couldn't quite place.

He sniffed around the bone Astrid indicated and, without looking for any more instruction, fired again. Then again, sizzling away the damaged hide. Then, faster than could have been anticipated, his teeth were out, neck striking, jaws snapping down in a crunch Astrid could feel.

Real quick indeed.

Her heart thudded. Toothless stepped back to reveal the roughly severed bone, shards falling from his tongue, and Astrid wondered if he could sense her fear. Her marvel.

She grunted out a quick "Thanks" and, without allowing for any more distraction, knelt down and grabbed the bone jutting out. She stabbed through the thinner wing material with the knife and yanked down. The expected pain from the rough action came accompanied by an unexpected noise. Toothless yelped.

Astrid turned, alarmed, and realized with some bemusement that this must be terribly grotesque for a dragon to witness. Her eyes fell to the uneven tailfin and a shot of sympathy sprang through her chest.

"Sorry," she muttered. "You might want to… well, you can go back to Hiccup. I got this."

Toothless didn't need to be told twice. He returned to Hiccup, not sparing her another glance. Or, perhaps, not sparing the Queen one.

Maybe it was determination. Maybe it was her body finally falling numb. But cutting through the ruined wing went quickly. Quicker than the entrail ropes. Quicker than making a basin.

Astrid followed Toothless' tail drag back to camp. In her hand was her paddle: bone from a dragon wing, roughly cut and frayed, but wide and strong enough to catch water. Paddling would be painful-she probably would pierce a lung—but she had little choice.

She brandished the paddle at Toothless, who, unsurpringly, went back to curling around Hiccup.

"And that's step one."

Saying it out loud seemed to drive in reality. Step one. Step one out of how many?

It struck her again. The urge to cry. To sleep. To curse the gods. But she couldn't.

She sniffed, set her jaw, and responded to Toothless' inquisitive study.

"Now, we get off this island." Step two. "With this," she added for no reason, pointing at the raft. "Because you can't fly," she pointed to Toothless. "And he's… "

Useless.

Hiccup remained unmoving save for the barely perceptible rise and fall of his chest.

Astrid's hand dropped. She felt a bit loopy—delirious from the long night and losing her comprehension over the situation. She was thirsty. Incredibly thirsty. She felt as if she would never wake up should she give into sleep.

She looked back at the cake of stolen branches she meant to sail.

"This is the worst raft in existence."

If she were being honest with herself, it wasn't bad considering the circumstances. Uneven logs, riddled with dragon teeth and crisped bark, tied together with the stringy insides of a dragon Queen, that might or might not attract ocean predators. It'd keep them afloat and, with a slight vibe of optimism, partially dry.

It looked worse as the sky lightened.

Astrid bit her lip and turned to Toothless.

"This will hold me and him… I don't think it will hold you."

Toothless stood with a depreciating snort. Astrid thought, for a moment, that he might intend to get more branches (she couldn't—she didn't have it in her to repeat another raft build). Instead he pranced around to the shoreline and pawed the water-soaked sand.

Astrid squinted. "You…"

His tail swished from side to side.

"You can swim?"

The dragon threw his head about, ear plates flapping back and forth. Astrid could see his brow flatten and his nose wrinkle. His response was clear. Of course, human. Don't insult me.

"I had to check," she grumbled.

The world felt like it was tilting. She was so tired. It kept coming back to that—how tired she was. She needed to rest. To sleep. To eat. To cry.

She really, really needed to cry.

Instead she bent down, scooped Hiccup under his arms, and attempted to drag him towards the raft.

Mistake.

Fortunately, Hiccup's head never left the ground and was caused no further injury when Astrid dropped his shoulders and fell away. Dark spots blistered across her vision and the pounding in her head exaggerated—she tried to focus on that over the sudden ripping sensation in her side. She could sense Toothless pacing around her as she struggled for breath. A high whine left her throat the first time she tried to speak and Toothless crossed all personal boundaries to offer his head.

Stupid

Astrid closed her eyes and pressed a hand into his neck, not knowing when she took his support. She focused on the sensation of his scales—warm, smooth, deceivingly soft…

Stupid, stupid

"I-I can't lift him, my ribs—Toothless—" She blinked, vision clearing, and spotted the saddle in the sand. "Wait." Breathe. "Got it." She stepped away from the dragon. "I got it."

Astrid still had to lift Hiccup in the end, as gently as she could, but using a base to slide him on made the task ten times easier. When she had most of his weight rested over the flat saddle she made sure to check his breath again. She pressed her fingers to his neck and found his pulse quicker than before. She didn't know if it was a good or bad thing, but to be safe, she considered everything bad.

Toothless took the straps of the saddle in his mouth and pulled Hiccup across the sand and onto the raft. Astrid followed close behind, bent uncomfortably and holding Hiccup's injured leg up as best she could. She'd be damned if all her work was ruined by gravel.

It was a harsh and awkward move, but when she had Hiccup fully settled on the raft and part one was complete, Astrid allowed herself a moment of distraction. She hoped for a huge sigh of relief to bubble forth, to feel some sort of accomplished. A swell of pride, even.

Instead, a bird cried in the distance and Astrid only felt a sudden, horrifying jolt—like all the experiences of the night had bottled together and exploded in her chest. Her arms came to wrap around her stomach and she held herself, suffering the spell in tense silence, acutely aware of Toothless watching her.

Stupid. Stop it.

It passed, and Astrid looked over her shoulder. The remains of the Queen were in full view—insides spilling from half of a swollen skeleton—and she felt it was something she'd never adapt to. In the distance, like grotesque landmarks: her clubbed tail. An outstretched, half-curled, stripped wing.

Her vision swung left. She saw the blackened forest and the specks of green now barely visible over the hill.

A hill. She hadn't noticed a hill before. Perhaps some of the life on the island had survived.

Gods, how much had she walked? Back and forth, picking through the wreckage, lost in a fog. The island seemed smaller in the daylight, but also larger.

She turned back to the sea. It had to be the Sullen Sea. It had to be. She was counting on it. She was counting on her estimations and her memory of last night's constellations, and the arrow she drew in the sand, now half gone.

Half...?

Wait. Did the Sullen Sea have a tide? There wasn't a tide—she had established that.

Hadn't she?

She shook her head. All it did was make the world spin and bring a faint buzzing to her ears. No time. She had no time for what ifs. She needed water. And help.

Keep pushing forward. If it wasn't the Sullen Sea then it had to be some other sea. She'd still travel northeast.

"Ready?" she asked. Toothless yipped. It sounded almost optimistic for a dragon and Astrid took whatever strength she could from it.

She rested the wing-paddle over Hiccup like a sheer blanket and steadied her hands on the angular edge of her raft. Toothless braced the crown of his head at the other end. Together, they pushed off the shore of the small, ruined island, leaving the former Queen to smolder in peace.


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A/N: End of chapter 2! We're finally going to be interacting with some other humans in the future. And, wow, thank you all so much for giving this a read and for the feedback I've gotten so far. I know this is some weird, rough stuff but it's so much fun sharing it with you all.

Don't forget to give a huge, huge shout out to jenna-sais-pas who peeled through this monstrosity of terribad grammar and made it readable. Thank you!

Next up: A look into Berk and some (brief) rest for Astrid.