Chapter 6: Of Astrid

Astrid was fuming. She was now one more step back. All her life she had worked to be the best Viking she could be, was praised on her strength and ferocity. She followed orders, aced all her tests, killed passels of dragons, and was a master strategist. She was constantly pushing to be the best, and was undeniably so. She was the perfect future leader of the tribe. ...But then there was Snorri. Snorri was the true heir. And Astrid was blocked from her greatest desire. But Astrid knew that she was supposed to be the true leader one day. All of her training and work could not have been for nothing. It had become a secret obsession of hers.

She would never do anything outright that would hurt Snorri. She was still the chief's daughter after all, but she always waited patiently, looking for her opportunities. And now she was growling a growl that would make a gronckle jealous. She had fallen one more step back... Because now there were two heirs in line to lead Berk. ...or were there? Astrid stopped pacing in front of her bed. If I can prove that this thing isn't really related to the chief, then I am no further back than before. Her resolve set. She would go "help" Fishlegs study this thing, and in the process dispel the doubt of it being the chief's son. Ha. That should make Snorri happy. She wasn't really wanting to help Snorri, but in this case helping Snorri was also helping herself. So she would deal with it.

And that was why bright and early the next morning, Astrid was stalking up to the laboratory, a basket of food on her back, and a smile plastered onto her face. She gave what she thought was an eager knock, and waited for Fishlegs to open the door. She was ready to face Fishlegs' annoying exuberance, gearing herself up to listen to him being oh so surprised and pleased to see her.
A gruff voice met her instead, taking her aback. "What do you want, Astrid?" Snotlout's tone was both challenging and rougher than usual. He was obviously not surprised and pleased to see her. "I don't want to hear about everything that I've done wrong. So just pack off." He started to slam the door, but she quickly shoved her foot into the gap. Ambitious though she may be, Astrid still had a heart, and was a quick study.
"No, no. I didn't even know you were here. I am just here to talk to Fishlegs."
"Oh yeah?" He knew her personality. He knew that while she could have a heart, she almost never did anything unless it furthered her own ends. She was driven by competition and a temper, hardly ever truly opening up.
Astrid rolled her eyes and grumbled under her breath. He was just in one of those moods. No amount of tact was going to help her get through to him. "Just go get Fishlegs, alright? I don't care if you're here." With her foot still in the heavy door jam, she heard him going deeper into the compound. Standing with her toes being crushed by the solid door, and her back starting to ache from the packed basket, she realized he probably wasn't coming back. Her mind had shifted to the pleasing thought of punching him in the nose when she heard footsteps. Finally! She thought, beginning to feel cross from the pain and the thought of all the effort she was now going to have to put in to play nicey-nice with those boys. Not to mention Snorri.
"Astrid? What are you doing here?"
Curse Loki and his sense of humor... She allowed a small moment of anger before turning around with her usual tough manner. "Waiting for the buffoons to open the door." She rolled her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
Snorri scuffed her left boot against the dirt. "Research. I need to learn more about this stranger."
"What a coincidence! I'm here to help Fishlegs with research too!"
Snorri looked at her strangely. "You're here. To help. Fishlegs. With research?" She stretched the sentence out into individual pieces, trying to puzzle out this unfathomable concept.
"Ye-es. Now please just let me in!" She nodded at the foot still being slowly flattened by the lab door, and her lack of free hands. Snorri obliged, but she seemed wary and still baffled by this change in behavior.

"He's still quite wary, but he has yet to outright show aggression to anyone but Snotlout, and that was when he was um..." Fishlegs trailed off. "..In a heightened emotional state." He nervously licked his lips. He looked over at Snorri again, hoping she was alright. She was gazing at the door to the greenhouse.
"Where did that son of a sheep go? I still owe him one for leaving me with a foot in the door." Astrid peered around, cracking her knuckles. Snorri snapped to attention at the name.
"He said he, um, had something he had to do. He left a few minutes ago just as I was coming in the back door." Astrid growled and Snorri turned away. Fishlegs bit his lip again. This was starting to get kind of rocky. "So, why don't we get started on some observations?"

"When is this thing ever going to come out? It's been hiding for hours!" The pfikingr had been watching for him all day. This drkkn was smarter than they were. He would wait them out. They had to go to sleep at some point. Then he would try to escape. Again. He was determined, but he was also deeply bored. While he knew that he could be attacked at any moment, he had started slipping into a sense of security in his little nest. They knew it was his. They only came in to toss eat-food on the ground before leaving. Even that he was cautious with. He only ate the fssssh, and only when they were not watching him. At the moment, he was the one watching, though. They thought they were looking at him, but really he was hidden high in one of the trees, unseen but seeing all. The angry-challenge-fight pfikingr was gone. But now a loud-sharp-pest pfikingr had joined the big-yak-fur pfikingr and the sad-hidden-quiet pfikingr. It was amusing. The loud-sharp-pest was trying to be the alpha, but the others were ignoring her.

"Astrid, maybe he'll come out if you just settle down and stop fussing." Snorri was huddled on the top of one of the tables so that she could still see in the window. Fishlegs sat on a stool, leaning back against a bookshelf. Astrid was pacing, glaring at the door.

"Dragons have acute senses. He can probably hear your agitation." Fishlegs was almost nonchalant as he sketched in one of his copious notebooks. "He'll come out once he thinks that we are not watching. So don't." He looked pointedly up from under his helmet at the blond Viking. Astrid huffed and walked over to sit beside Snorri, who stiffened at the proximity like a cat near water. She had only started to relax her posture when Snotlout slunk in. He gave a wary glance, saw Astrid glaring at him from beside Snorri, and disappeared into his room. Astrid glanced at Snorri, who was half-cowering into her side.

"Alright, spill it. What's happened between you two?"

"Astrid." Fishlegs chastised, actually looking up this time. "I know that you are quite intelligent, so show a little sense and use some compassion."

She rolled her eyes and grumpily breathed out, but otherwise settled down. She lowered her arm around Snorri's shoulders. "Alright, talk to me. I know we don't really get along well, but you can tell me. I won't even make a snarky comment afterwards." She bit her lip. "Probably." A strangled chuckle came out of the quivering mass beside her. "See! There's a laugh!" Snorri's tear-stained face came out of her arms, smiling slightly at Astrid. A jolt ran through her. I'm not angry at her right now. Why? Astrid mulled it over, but still couldn't place why she was alright with this contact. For later consideration.

"We- we had a.. disagreement. I don't even know w-why he's so angry-y at me..." She looked down at the table again, starting to hiccup slightly, and drawing her knees more tightly to her chest.

"Hey, shhh.. I'm sure it's not you. If it is because of you, then that dung-head deserves a worse nickname." Snorri snorted, half laughing and half-crying. Eventually she calmed down, the whole time leaning on Astrid's shoulder.

"Thanks, Astrid. I-I know I need to be stronger than this..."

"Don't. You're strong. You just care a lot." Astrid stood up, brushing off her own moment of weakness. She turned to Fishlegs, feeling self-conscious again. "It's late. Why don't we take turns keeping an eye on him through the night? I'll go first."

"It's a good idea. Come on Snorri, I have a spare room over here if you would like to spend the night..." They disappeared, his voice trailing off. Astrid sat in Snorri's place, watching intently through the window. She would stay motionless all night if that is what it took.

His green eyes were not as strong as his nest-mates, but he could still see well in the dark. It grew quieter the dimmer the light did, and he finally crept off his perch. He slunk down to where the water trickled in, snuffling up a few mouthfuls. He peered around cautiously. He must keep on alert. After a quick glance towards the clear-through that led to the pfikingr nest, he trotted over to the fish, eating a few of those. Astrid watched curiously. Clothed in dragon skin, the only way you knew it was human was because you could see his head. The moonlight was dim, and so it was more a silhouette or a shadow than a figure. She wished she could see better! Then she could compare him to the chief and his family. Slowly, inching down, she got off the table and tiptoed to the door. Peering in the glass, she could see him slightly clearer. His hair was so long and matted that it formed a halo of dark dreadlocks around his face. She tried to look at his skin tones, but the parts that were visible were mussed with dirt. And he didn't turn, so she couldn't see his eyes. "Errrr, for Thor's sake just give me something I can work with!"

Astrid froze. She hadn't realized that she'd spoken aloud. The dragon-boy's head snapped to the window. Their eyes locked onto each other's. Astrid saw a kind of feral cunning, as well as curiosity and wariness. Then the figure backed into the brush and was gone. She sunk against the door. "Well, I guess that gives me some answers. But now this thing is going to avoid me the rest of the night, but..." She trailed off. She was shocked and hysterical inside. Her emotions were probably just as unstable as Snorri's.

That's why we connected. It clicked inside her. With it, she realized that she could not tell Snorri what she saw tonight. She couldn't tell her about those green eyes that gained amber glints in the moonlight. She couldn't bring herself to tell Snorri that the dragon had the Chief's eyes.