"Got another bundle o' weapons for ya, da'!"
"Get 'em goin' in the furnace; I'm almost done with this first batch. An' where's Hiccup? He should've been here by now!" Gobber wiped his forehead on his arm before hammering away on a bent sword. Glancing up, he watched Thora bury some swords in the red-hot coals of the foundry.
Hurrying past her father, she grabbed a large, double-bearded ax. "Oh, you know Hiccup," she chuckled, starting up the grinding wheel. "He's probably tryin' t' tackle a dragon on his own again."
"He better not or else it'll be more than just Stoick tannin' his hide!" Tossing the now-straightened sword into the coals, he pulled out one of the bent swords and began to hammer away on it. Behind him, the door burst open; glancing over his shoulder, he saw Hiccup quickly tying a leather apron around himself. "Ahh! Nice o' you t' join the party! I thought you'd been eaten up."
"Who, me?" Hiccup breathlessly laughed. "Nah; I'm far too muscular for their tastes!" He grabbed a mace attachment from the ground, grunting slightly. "They wouldn't know what to do with all of…this!" He struck a heroic pose after replacing the hammer on Gobber's wall of accessories.
Thora snorted. "They do need toothpicks, don't they?" she teased, going back to watching the ax blade as she ran it along the spinning stone.
Frowning, Hiccup went over to the shutters and threw them open. "Oh, very funny." He let out a small yelp as a group of Viking warriors rushed over, dropping their dull or ruined weapons into his arms before plucking up new weapons from the counter. He stuck his tongue out when a nearby Gronckle blast sent dirt flying into his face. He paused for a moment, seeing a group of five other teenagers run past, buckets of water in their hands. With a dreamy smile on his lips, he unconsciously started to climb out of the window.
"Oh no you don't!" Gobber grabbed Hiccup by the back of his tunic, easily hoisting him off the ground.
"Ah, come on!" begged Hiccup. "Let me out, please? I need to make my mark!"
He shook his head, plopping the teen next to his daughter. "Oh, you've made plenty of marks. An' all in the wrong places!"
"Please! Two minutes. I'll kill a dragon and my life will get infinitely better!" he pleaded, giving Gobber a most desperate look. "I might even get a date!"
Gobber shook his head in quite the fatherly manner. "Hiccup, you can't lift a hammer. You can't swing an ax; you can't even throw one o' these!" He blinked as the bolas were taken from his hands by a Viking outside. He watched as they flew through the air, neatly wrapping up a Gronckle's legs.
Thora shook her head, heading to the front of the shop to take over metal-heating duties as Hiccup darted over to a wooden contraption he had built. "Alright, fine –but this will throw it for me!" he told the smith, patting the machine. As soon as he laid his hand on its outer shell, it burst into life and Thora ducked just in time. A Viking running past, however, was not so lucky and found himself wrapped up in a pair of bolas. "Sorry!"
"See!" Gobber scolded, picking up his daughter up off the ground. "Now this right here is what I'm talking about!" He set her down near the hearth, a concerned look on his face. "You alright, Thora?"
Brushing off her apron, she nodded. "Aye, da'." She turned her back on the two males, hoping to stay out of the way of anymore wayward bolas.
"It's just a mild calibration issue-" Hiccup started.
"Hiccup," interrupted Gobber. Thora peeked over her shoulder, not having heard Gobber so frustrated with Hiccup before. "If ya ever want t' get out there to fight dragons, you need to stop all…" He sighed and motioned to the entirety of Hiccup. "This."
A frown came to Hiccup's normally cheerful face. "But you just pointed to all of me…" he retorted.
"Yes, that's it! Stop being all of you!" Gobber told him, matter-of-factly.
Doing his best to hide his hurt, Hiccup puffed out his chest; Thora, however quite visibly cringed at the words. "Ooh-"
"Ooh yes," Gobber quickly retorted, his brow furrowed.
"You, sir, are playing a dangerous game!" Hiccup continued. "Keeping this much raw…Viking-ness contained! There will be consequences!" He let out a small gasp when Gobber plopped an unsharpened broadsword in his arms.
"I'll take my chances," he simply told him. "Sword. Sharpen. Now." He pointed his hammer at Thora, who had paused in her own sharpening of weapons. "Same goes for you, missy. Back t' work."
She let out a quiet sigh. "Aye, da," she murmured. Getting the wheel going again, she used her tail to push some hair from her face. She glanced over at Hiccup before lightly tapping his shoulder with her tail. When he looked over at her, she mouthed, "Sorry. Hangover."
Hiccup cringed and nodded in understanding. "It's alright," he mouthed back. "Dad's grumpy, too."
"Well, duh. Dragons are attackin'." She jokingly rolled her eyes before flinching; a high-pitched scream filled the night. "Night Fury!" she shouted, dropping the ax and covering her ears. Seconds later, one of the catapult towers was blown to pieces.
"Man the fort, Thora! They need me out there!" Gobber instructed as another Night Fury blast echoed through the village. He tossed off his hammer attachment in favor for the mace before running out the door. Two seconds later, he poked his head back in, pointing at the two teens. "Stay. Put. There." Then he ran out once more.
Standing upright, Thora rubbed her ears. "Augh, why does tha' dragon have t' be so loud?" she grumbled. "Why do they all have t' be so loud?"
Hiccup chuckled, heading over to his contraption. "They're loud because they're dragons," he replied. Picking up the contraption, he started for the door, but was promptly stopped by Thora, who stood in the doorway with her arms crossed. "What? You, too?" he frowned.
She raised her brow and moved her hands on her hips. "I'm runnin' out o' excuses, Hiccup. Last time, it was a Gronckle slammin' into the hearth. The time before that? A Monstrous—"
Hiccup looked up at her, his eyes wide and pleading.
"Oh, don't you give me those eyes!" She did her best to not look at him as she tried to scold him. "Hiccup, every time ya go out there, ya get us both in trouble!" Unable to stop herself, she glanced at him only to find his lower lip now quivering. "…Oh, fine!" she groaned, stepping out of the way. "I'll just stay here an' try t' think o' something…" Rubbing her face in defeat, she unknowingly smeared soot all over her skin.
"This is why you're my favorite demi-cousin! Thank you!" Hiccup grinned as he ran past her, the device rolling in front of him.
"I'm your only demi-cousin!" she called after him. With a heavy sigh, she leaned her forehead against the doorway. "Oh gods, what do I tell da' this time…?" she mumbled, lightly hitting her head on the wood. After a minute of her self-punishment, she pulled herself away from the doorframe and moved to pick up the ax she had been sharpening. Just as she was about to clasp the handle, she felt something grab her tail. "Oh, what n-"
A shriek left her mouth as she was yanked outside and thrown a few feet into the air. She landed hard on the ground, the air getting knocked from her lungs. Wheezing, she forced herself to her knees and started coughing when she tried to breathe. She glanced over her shoulder to see what had grabbed her only to let out a pained cry of shock: A Deadly Nadder was standing overtop her, tilting its head this way and that as it watched her.
She tried to scramble away, but the dragon grabbed her ankle and threw her even higher into the air. This time, however, she was within reach of the forge's roof. Reaching out, she managed to grab hold of the shop's figurehead and pulled herself against it. Behind her, the Nadder squawked in annoyance as its toy tried to get away; it opened its wings and took to the air.
Cursing, Thora swung out of the way. Splinters of wood went flying as the dragon gripped the figurehead and ripped it from its place. She hopped to her feet and ran across the building, jumping onto the roof of the next shop. The Nadder let out another squawk and took chase.
"Not good, not good!" she yelped, running across the center beam. "Hlín help me!" She jumped, just barely able to make it onto the next roof. As she ran, she felt a sudden burst of heat as the dragon shot a fireball at her. She whipped her tail closer to her body, combing embers from the puff of hair at its tip with her fingers. The action caused her to lose some balance, but she stayed upright. Peeking over her shoulder, she readied herself for the dragon's next burst of fire.
Instead of flames, though, the Deadly Nadder shot its tail spikes at her. Two of the spikes grazed her cheek and leg while the rest embedded themselves into the roof before her. Unable to come to a stop in time, Thora threw herself backwards, hoping she wouldn't end up skewered. Whether it was luck or misfortune helping her, the dragon landed on the beam in front of her and she smacked into its leg before she could become impaled.
The Nadder, however, seemed to have lost her. It tilted its head, trying to catch sight of her, but she was too far under its belly to be seen. It knew she was still around, though, as it could smell her. Spreading its wings for balance, it began to hop about the roof, hoping to uncover her.
Thora darted this way and that, doing her best to follow the dragon's movements. Her heart was racing inside her chest; she was sure it would burst out soon. She was mentally praying to the gods when the Nadder feinted; it acted like it was going to hop towards the back of the building, but as she darted out from the safety of its shadow, it remained still.
The Deadly Nadder, far too annoyed with her antics, squawked and reared back. Opening its mouth, it spat a ball of fire at an alarmed Thora.
There was nothing to hit.
Knowing there was only one thing that could save her, Thora had thrown herself from the roof. Bumping and scraping against the cold, stone walls of the village's well as she plummeted downwards, she wondered if she would have been better off being hit by dragon fire. Although it felt like hours, only a minute had passed by the time she hit the frigid water. For the second time that morning, her breath was forced from her body.
She threw her arms out in front of her and latched onto the wall. Pulling herself upwards, she let out a gasp as her head broke the surface. She started to shiver as she began the climb back up to the top of the well. At the moment, being roasted alive would have been preferable to her.
"Da' is goin' to kill me," she mumbled under her breath.
Halfway up, she paused and cocked her head, listening to what was happening above ground. From what she could hear, the battle was nearing its end.
'Well, looks like I'm going to get the scolding this time,' she thought, seeking out her next handhold. 'What am I thinking? I'm always getting scolded.'
The sound of frightened 'baa'ing reached her ears, though it was fading into the distance.
'Did the dragons actually manage to steal some sheep this time?' she thought, brows furrowed. 'That better not be my fault. Or Hiccup's.' She cringed at the thought. 'It's probably our fault…'
She was just a few feet from the top when a bucket was thrown down into the well; thanks to the narrow space, it hit her atop the head. She yelped in pain and gripped the top of her head. Above her, the silhouette of a person appeared; it was hard to tell who it was from the shape, but their voice gave them away.
"…Dude, why are you in the well?" asked a rather confused Tuffnut.
Another head joined the first –his twin sister, Ruffnut. "Someone's in the well? Why would anyone be down there?"
Thora groaned. "Gods, not you two…" she mumbled.
"Ha! Why's the troll in the well? I thought they lived under bridges?"
Reaching the top of the well, Thora pulled herself up onto the wall and pushed some hair from her face. "Really? O' all the jokes out there 'bout trolls, you use the one about bridges?" Now exposed to the crisp, morning air, she began to shiver even more. "That one's so old, it's not even close t' funny."
The blonde girl scowled. "Hey!" She punched Thora's arm, nearly causing her to fall back into the well; thankfully, she was holding onto the crank beam with her tail. "I'm funny."
"Yeah, your face is funny," snickered Tuffnut. He flinched when Ruffnut punched him, too. "Ow, hey!" He punched her shoulder in return.
Her brow rising, Thora leaned back against the support beam and started to wring out her hair. She watched the twins fall to the ground in a heap, their limbs flying as they struggled to beat up the other. Through their commotion, she heard the sound of metal scraping against bone and turned, finding a serious-faced girl walking towards them.
"Morning, Astrid," she chattered.
"Are those two fighting again?" Astrid questioned, setting an empty bucket down beside the well.
"Mhm," she replied. "The great thing is I'm the one who started it." She chuckled before grabbing another handful of hair to wring out.
"Oh?" Cocking her hip, she crossed her arms and watched the twins. "How'd you do that?"
"Said Ruffnut wasn't funny." She looked over at the other teen. "So what was the damage count this morning?"
Astrid inspected her nails before pulling out a small dagger, using it to clean them. "Well, we lost five sheep, three chickens, eight buildings –including part of the armory-, two catapults, and one lookout tower."
Thora frowned, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "A lookout tower? How in Midgard did we lose one of those?!" She hopped onto the ground and began wringing out her clothes.
"Somebody's demi-cousin tried to shoot down a Night Fury." She gave Thora a long look. "And we also saw you running from a Deadly Nadder."
Shrinking back, Thora did her best to smile innocently at Astrid, but the tusks protruding from her lower jaw did little to help. "That wasn't my fault."
"Whether it was your fault or not, it's the reason half the armory burnt down."
Thora sunk down, hiding her face in her hands. She, like everyone on Berk, knew just how vital the armory was to the village's survival. "Oh gods…Please tell me your lyin'. Please be lyin'…"
Astrid started to walk away. "I don't lie."
Hitting her forehead, Thora forced herself to her feet. "Well, I guess it could have been worse," she told herself. "Could o' burnt down the armory when it was full…"
"What was that, young lassie?"
She cringed before spinning around. There stood Stoick, looking far more grumpy than normal. "Er…Hi, Uncle Stoick!" she spoke, forcing an innocent smile to her lips. "How'd the dragon fight go?"
He gave her a look that could freeze mead as he crossed his arms over his chest. "I think you know very well how things went," he told her.
She shrank back slightly "It could have gone worse!" she countered, still wearing the look of innocence. "I didn't get eaten!"
He sighed and rubbed his temple. "Not this time. One o' these days, the battle's goin' to end and we're going to find out that you and Hiccup have been eaten by the beasts, you know that? Just because you managed t' escape this time doesn't mean it's always going to be that way! It was a fluke you were able to save yourself by jumping into the well." His face was stern as he watched her look away in shame. "I don't know how in Odin's name the two o' you manage to get into so much trouble, but it needs to stop."
"Yes, Uncle Stoick," she mumbled, her tail having sunk to rest between her feet.
"Now get t' the forge. I'll have your father deal with you after the meeting."
She peeked up at him. "Meetin'? What meeting?"
"You'll find out later. Forge. Now."
"Yes, Uncle Stoick…" Slouching in defeat, she timidly began to make her way back across the village.
"Oh, and Thora?"
She turned to look at the chief. "Aye?"
"I better not hear about you jumping into anymore wells."
She sighed. "Aye, Uncle…"
The mead hall was at full capacity. Stoick stood at the head of the table, his hands on either side of a large map. Off to his right stood Gobber, his drinking arm attached to his stump. Lightly shaking his head, the smith took a long drink of ale from the tankard as Stoick tried to gather his people's courage.
"Either we finish them or they'll finish us!" he decreed. "It's the only way we'll be rid of them." Pointing down at the map, he motioned to the top left corner, where it had been left uncharted. "If we find the nest and destroy it, the dragons will leave! They'll have to find another home!" He slammed a dagger down through the velum, earning a gleeful cheer from the people.
Standing upright, he observed the expressions of the other Vikings. "One more search," he told them. "Before the ice sets in."
The excitement of the crowd suddenly vanished. Fear and trepidation was all-too apparent on their faces.
"Those ships never come back," someone dared to argue.
Sending a half-glare at the speaker, Stoick raised his brow. "We're Vikings. It's an occupational hazard. Now…" He straightened up and placed his hands on his hips. "Who's with me?"
Various murmured excuses echoed through the hall as most everyone shrank back from their angry chief. His brow rising, he crossed his arms over his chest.
"Alright," he slowly began, "those who stay will look after Hiccup!" A smug grin appeared under his beard as everyone instantaneously raised their hands, volunteering to go on the mission. He loved his son dearly, but Stoick knew first-hand just how much of a hassle Hiccup was to watch over –let alone raise.
Gobber spun around on the bench as the other Vikings began filing out of the hall to go ready their belongings. "Great," he mumbled. "I'll pack my undies."
Stoick set his hand on his shoulder, all the while shaking his head. "No. I need you to stay and train some new recruits."
At that, Gobber cocked his brow. "Oh, perfect." He leaned back, looking at his friend. "And while I'm busy, Hiccup and Thora can cover the stall. Molten steel, razor-sharp blades, lots o' time t' themselves…What could possibly go wrong?" He took another drink from his tankard, rolling his eyes behind its brim.
Stoick let out a heavy sigh and hopelessly shook his head. "What am I going to do with him, Gobber?" he quietly asked.
His brow still lifted, Gobber studied his friend for a long while before answering. "Put him in training with the others," he answered.
Frowning, Stoick shot him a glare. "No, Gobber. I'm serious."
"So am I." He stared Stoick down, waiting for the stubborn chief to admit defeat.
After some minutes, he finally closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "He'd be killed before you let the first dragon out of its cage," he quietly told the blacksmith.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Oh, you don't know that!" As Stoick lightly thwacked him on the back, his false tooth popped out of his mouth, disappearing into his mug.
"I do know that, actually." Getting to his feet, he began to pace in front of the tapestry as Gobber tried to find his missing tooth at the bottom of his mug.
"No, you don't." Swirling the mug around, he only succeeded in creating a bit of foam.
"No, actually, I do."
"No you don't!" Scrunching his nose up somewhat, Gobber tried to finish his ale in one gulp, but there was too much left in the bottom of the mug for one swallow.
Stoick shook his head. "Listen! You know what he's like. From the time he could crawl, he's been…different. He doesn't listen." Looking up at the tapestry, he let out a quiet sigh; depicted on the cloth was a mighty Viking slaying a dragon. "He has the attention span of a sparrow…I take him fishing and he goes hunting for—for trolls!"
Gobber raised his brow; for now he wouldn't remind the chief that his daughter was half-troll. "They exist," he instead told him. "The full-blooded ones like t' steal your socks. But only the left ones…what's with that?"
"When I was a boy-" began the chief.
Gobber closed his eyes, knowing what was coming. "Oh no…here we go…"
"-My father told me to bang my head against a rock and I did it." He continued pacing, his eyes fixed on the stone floor. "I thought it was crazy, but I didn't question him. And you know what happened?"
Finding the tooth, he put it back in his gum and gave it a few light taps to secure it back into place. "You got a headache?" was his sarcastic retort.
He ignored the response. "That rock split in two." He looked up, a reminiscent smile under his beard. "It taught me what a Viking could do, Gobber! He could crush mountains, level forests –tame the seas! Even as a boy, I knew what I was, what I had to become." A heavy sigh left his mouth and he turned to his friend. "Hiccup is not that boy," he quietly admitted.
"You can't stop him, Stoick. You can only prepare him." Standing up, Gobber went over to him and set his hand on his shoulder, a pitying look on his face. He knew the turmoil that Stoick had to be going through; after all, they practically raised their children together. "Look, I know it seems hopeless –I mean, Thora's practically the same way. But the truth o' the matter is you won't always be around t' protect him. He's goin' t' get out there again. Odin's beard, he's probably out there now!"
Rubbing his face, Stoick gave a small nod. "You're right," he murmured. "I'll put Hiccup in dragon training…You'll watch over him, won't you?"
"O' course I will! The lad's all but family by this point, after all." He beamed almost proudly. "Anyway, someone's got t' keep him from gettin' picked on by the others."
Nodding in understanding, Stoick returned his smile, albeit half-heartedly. "And what of Thora? Are you going to put her in dragon training? She could use it after her run-in with that Nadder this morning."
Gobber leaned back against the table, resting his elbows atop it. "Nope."
Stoick frowned. "And why not?"
"You know how she is," Gobber mumbled, looking up at the ceiling. "She's—well, she's…" He glanced at Stoick from the corner of his eye. "She's not really cut out t' kill dragons."
He raised his brow, unimpressed by his excuse. "Oh really? Because I seem to recall the two o' us teachin' her the intricacies of using a weapon from the time she could walk."
"It's not that she can't fight, Stoick! It's just that she…" He rubbed the back of his neck with his tankard. "I'm afraid t' let her."
Stoick stared at him, mouth hanging slightly open.
Gobber pouted. "Oh, don't give me tha'! You remember how Greta was in battle; she could put the Berserkers t' shame with her bloodlust!" As Stoick nodded slightly, he slouched forward, elbows now resting on his knees. "I want her t' be a warrior, aye, but not one like that. I'd want her t' be a proud, strong Hooligan like the rest o' us. Not…some monster."
Setting his hand on Gobber's shoulder, Stoick gave him a reassuring smile. "She can still be a warrior, Gobber," he told him, "but perhaps she can be one who saves lives rather than takes them?"
Half of Gobber's brow rose. "Eh?"
"She can be Gothi's apprentice," Stoick explained. "After all, we've only two healers in the entire village –having a third wouldn't hurt things. And the old gal is gettin' on in her years; who knows? If Gothi an' the gods see fit, maybe Thora could be the village Wise Woman by the time Hiccup's chief!"
At that, Gobber let out a hearty laugh. "Now isn't that a thought?" he chortled. "Thora as a Völva…" He scratched his chin at the thought, intrigued by the idea of his daughter potentially holding such a high position in the village. "Well, I think it best t' start small an' have her learn t' be a healer. After all, only the gods know what sorts o' injuries Gothi will need help fixin' in the comin' weeks…"
When Gobber arrived back to the forge that afternoon, it was to find Thora sweeping the floor. Soot and dried blood still clung to her face from that morning, though she had managed to bind the wound on her leg. She glanced up at him, a somewhat guilty look on her face.
"What's got ya lookin' so guilty?" he questioned, pulling the mug from his stump. He hung it on the wall and grabbed his small hook.
Her cheeks turned a bit pink. "You…didn't hear?"
"Oh, I heard 'bout this mornin' alright." After putting his hook into his stump, he reached out and tousled Thora's hair with his hand. "Let's go for a walk, shall we?"
She blinked, taken aback by his calmness. "Ya mean…I'm not in trouble?"
"Now why would ya be in trouble? For getting' chased by a dragon?" He snorted and plucked the broom from her hands. "Don't be silly." Setting the broom against the door, he left the forge, adopting a leisurely pace to give her time to catch up to him. "The ol' loggin' trail sound good t' you?"
She shrugged, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Truth be told, anythin' sounds good now tha' I know I'm not in trouble."
Gobber chuckled and patted her on the shoulder. "Well, I'm glad t' hear that."
And then he fell silent.
The two of them continued to walk, taking a route that led them behind the village and into the forest. At one point, it had been a well-used road –ruts were still worn into the earth from the logging carts- but now it was all but abandoned. Tall grass and thorny bushes hid most of the lane from sight, but those who still used the path for collecting berries or roots knew how to pick their way around the obstacles. Besides Gothi, the duo knew the road the best out of everyone on Berk; they often took walks there after rough days in the forge or when they wanted some quiet time.
Half an hour of walking brought them to the edge of the forest. The trees here stood tall and foreboding, their mossy limbs allowing only a few lucky rays of sunlight to reach the forest floor. Thora inhaled deeply, her eyes closing and a wide grin coming to her face as she took in the rich, deep scent. Gobber raised his brow and looked down at her, his lips curling into a smile. He knew how much she loved the woods; after all, it was in her blood.
"Smells better than a sweaty ol' smithy, doesn't it?" he lightly teased.
Thora's cheeks darkened. "Aye," she mumbled, embarrassed. "Do ya mind if I climb?"
Shaking his head, he dismissively waved his hook at her. "Just stay within ear shot –my ear shot, mind you."
"I will." The grin still on her face, she rushed over to the nearest tree and scrambled up the trunk.
Gobber watched her; even after fourteen years, he was still amazed by how fast and well she could climb things. It was both a blessing and a curse –he remembered 'losing' her many times in her childhood thanks to scrambling into the rafters. Shaking his head, he continued to walk, focusing his gaze on the ground ahead. He could hear Thora giggle from somewhere above him and he figured she must have startled some squirrel or chipmunk.
"So, Thora," he called out some minutes later, "I suppose ya've heard about your uncle's crazy quest?"
"Aye," her voice echoed down to him. "Why is he so obsessed with findin' the dragon's nest? Every time he goes out lookin' for it, he comes back with half o' the ships he left with!"
He unconsciously nodded in agreement. "Yeh know your uncle; he's stubborn an' boar-headed. Won't rest until the nest has been destroyed…" He shook his head and let out a sigh. "But, he's left me with me own job t' do while he's gone."
"Oh? What's that?"
Pausing as a clump of moss drifted down before him, Gobber peered skyward, but saw no trace of his daughter. Shrugging it off, he continued to walk. "I'll be trainin' the teenagers how t' fight dragons." He suddenly jumped back as Thora appeared, hanging upside down on a branch.
"Really?" she questioned, a brow cocked. She had small twigs and bits of moss clinging to her ashy hair, but didn't seem to notice.
He reached out and poked the tip of her nose with his hook, watching in amusement as she wriggled it in annoyance. "Aye," he told her as she swung herself onto the top of the branch once more. "It'll keep me away from the forge most o' the day." He started walking again as Thora climbed upwards.
She held out her arms as she walked along a fir branch. "You'll even be trainin' Hiccup an' me?" she questioned, hopping lightly over a bird's nest. "You'll have your hands full with all o' us then! Uncle Stoick should have left Spitelout t' help ya!"
She jumped across the way, landing on a pine bough before peering over the edge to stare down at her father. She knew that tone all too well; the news had been too good to be true. "We won't be fightin'."
"Well, Hiccup will!" Gobber countered, causing her curiosity to come back. "But your uncle thought it'd be better t' have ya learn a skill far more important than fightin' dragons!"
"But fightin' dragons is all everyone ever does," she retorted. Walking towards the trunk of the pine, she stood on her tiptoes and grabbed a higher branch. "What's more important than that?" With a grunt, she started to pull herself up.
"Bein' Gothi's apprentice."
Thora almost let go of the branch in shock. "Wh-what?" she called, eyes wide. She let go of the branch, starting to make her way down towards the ground. "I'm not sure I heard ya right."
"Ya heard me well enough," he replied, crossing his arms. "Stoick thinks you'll make a good apprentice t' Gothi –an' she an' I agree." When she came into view, his eyes tracked her movements until she was safely on the ground. "I talked t' her before I went t' the shop. She said she'll be happy t' take ya on."
Rather than ecstatic as he thought she would be, Thora looked apprehensive. "But…but da', I can't be a healer." Her tail hung low to the ground, moving in slow circles.
"An' why not?" He nudged her shoulder with his hook. "I think you'd make a wonderful healer!"
Her cheeks darkened and she glanced away. "Because healers are supposed t' be human," she muttered.
Gobber frowned. "Now who in Midgard told ya that?" he scowled. "Tell me an' I'll give them a new a-"
"It's just what I've been told," she interrupted, unknowingly beginning to toy with the hem of her apron dress. "Everyone's always told me tha' healers an' seers an' anyone who uses magic has t' be human, elsewise things go wrong an' bad things happen."
Still wearing a frown, Gobber shook his head. "Well, ya can just plain ol' ignore those naysayers," he firmly told her, "because if Gothi says you're cutout for the task, then you're cutout for the task." Leaning over, he set his hand and hook on her shoulders before kissing the top her head. "An' even if you do summon some evil sort o' creature or somethin', it'll be a nice change o' pace t' fightin' dragons."
"Da'," she mumbled, slightly smiling. "That's not funny."
"Then why are ya smilin'?" he grinned.
She lightly pushed him away, trying not to smile wider. "I'm not!"
"Oh? What's that your lips are doin', then? A reverse scowl?" He poked her nose again as she giggled. "An upside-down frown?"
"Da'!" She hid a fit of giggles behind her hands and swatted at Gobber with her tail. He ducked, though, and caught her in a bear-hug.
"You'll do fine," he told her, giving her an extra squeeze. "I know ya will. Know how?"
"How?" She grimaced when she smelled the scent of stale body odor mixed with ale, soot, and metal. "Ugh…" she muttered under her breath. 'I hope it rains soon, otherwise he'll be able to slay dragons with his stench…' she thought.
Gobber didn't notice and instead ruffled her hair before setting her on her own two feet. "Because I'm your da' an' I'm always right."
Her brow rose; she knew better than to argue that point, even if there had been plenty of times throughout her life that he had, in fact, been wrong. "Alright," she conceded. "So when do I start?"
"Tomorrow," he chirped, "bright an' early. Also, Hiccup will be stayin' with us until Stoick gets back."
She nodded in understanding. "I'll find the spare hammock. What should I make for dinner?"
He shook his head. "You get a break tonight. I'll be makin' yak noodle soup!"
Her eyes widened and her tail rose up higher, waving excitedly. "Yak noodle soup?" she repeated. "Ya don't make that often! What's the occasion?"
A sly grin came to his features. "Well, for one, it's one o' the few yummy things I can cook," he told her. "And secondly, whatever's left over will be goin' with ya t' Gothi's tomorrow. She loves the stuff!"
Thora gave him a curious look. "…You're bribing her, aren't ya?"
"No!" He frowned at such a wild accusation. "Like I said: I've already talked t' her about all this. I'm just sendin' some o' the soup with ya as a way t' thank her for takin' ya on."
She gave him a curious look, as if she didn't entirely believe him, though she said nothing.
Night had fallen by the time Hiccup arrived. He knocked twice before pushing open the heavy wooden door only to find Gobber sitting before the hearth, stirring a large cauldron of soup with his ladle-hand. Across from him, Thora was dangling, upside down, from a rafter as she strung up the second half of a hammock. When she saw him come in, she grinned and waved.
"Evenin', Hiccup," she spoke, startling Gobber, who nearly fell off his stool.
"Hiccup! I didn't see ya come in; gave me a right fright you did!" admitted the blacksmith.
"Sorry, but in my defense, I did knock," Hiccup chuckled. Rubbing his arm somewhat nervously, he stepped closer to the fire –both to warm up and to subtly peer inside the cooking pot. "So, ah…how 'bout that quest to find the dragon's nest?" He was more than a little surprised to find the contents of the vessel edible looking.
"Insane," Gobber and Thora chorused.
"But, what do ya expect? Stoick's too stubborn t' back down from the challenge," finished Gobber. Shaking his head, he dipped the ladle into the soup and sipped it. Apparently, something wasn't quite right, because he reached into a clay jar and sprinkled some of its contents into the soup. "Come on over, Hiccup, an' make yourself at home. You're standin' over there all awkward-like. Ya know you're welcomed here." He motioned at an empty stool across the fire with his hook.
Doing what he was told, Hiccup sat down, resting his hands on his knees. "What time does the training start?" he questioned after some minutes of silence passed by.
"First thing in the mornin'," Gobber replied. He glanced over at Thora as she landed with a 'thud' on the floor. "You alright, love?"
Standing upright, Thora nodded and pushed some hair from her face. "Fine. Just odd jumpin' down with a hammock in the way." She went and sat on the floor next to Hiccup, leaning back on her hands.
"Will you be training with us?" Hiccup asked her.
She shook her head. "Nah. Apparently, your da' thought I'd be better off learnin' t' heal. So, if ya get hurt, I'll be able t' fix ya up!" She chuckled, though it faded quickly when she saw the frown he wore. "What's wrong?"
It was Hiccup's turn to shake his head. "Nothing, nothing…it's just that my dad isn't normally the type to suggest healing as an occupation. You know him, it's always, 'We could use a few more good Vikings t' help the village out when those dragons attack!'" As he imitated his father, he had stuck his chest out and wore a comically accurate grumpy expression.
Gobber was mildly amused by the impersonation. "As true as that is, it was Stoick's idea t' have her be Gothi's apprentice. She'll be learnin' more than just healin'! Thora here could quite possibly be Berk's wise woman by the time you're chief!"
Hiccup glanced over at Thora, who wore a nervous smile. He wondered why she looked nervous, and made a note to question it later, after Gobber had gone to bed. "A wise woman, eh? Will you stay mute and communicate only in cryptic drawings?" he joked.
"Oh, no," she giggled; he thought it sounded a bit forced. "I'll be mute, but I'll communicate through tappin' a spoon on a pot."
"Ooh, now that's original," he laughed. "That'll be even harder for us to translate!"
Gobber gave the two of them an intense, fatherly look as he leaned his elbow on his knee. "Ya know, Gothi doesn't speak because she was born without a voice," he told them, his tone gentle. "An' not everyone could read back when she was a lassie, so she used the pictures t' say what she thought." He stood up and crossed the room, ducking into the pantry to grab some bowls.
Both teens cringed in embarrassment. "Did not know that," Hiccup murmured, his gaze fixing on the floor.
"But now that we all can read, she still finds it easier t' use pictures rather than letters," Gobber continued. "For those who don't know how t' read the pictures, though, she uses letters. Takes her longer t' write out words that way, but still gets her point across." Using his prosthetic ladle, he filled up one of the bowls with soup and handed it over to Hiccup. "Thora, could ya get the spoons?"
She wordlessly got to her feet and disappeared behind the battered cloth separating the pantry from the main room. When she came back, she bore not only spoons, but a set of tankards, as well as a pitcher of water held by her tail. She plunked a spoon into Hiccup's bowl before setting a mug down on the ground next to him and filling it with water. He thanked her for both items before beginning to eat, watching as she circled the fire and filled a tankard for her father, exchanging it for her own bowl of soup.
Not much was said during the meal, as everyone was busy shoveling soup down their throats. Hiccup was astounded at how good the food was; Gobber was not known for his cooking. When he reached the bottom of his bowl –which was by no means small- Gobber wasted no time in refilling it. When he gave the blacksmith a questioning look, Gobber shrugged.
"You were the one who wanted t' be big an' beefy," he casually told him, earning a look of confusion from Thora. She didn't press the matter, however, and instead continued to eat.
By the time everyone was finished, the fire was burning low in the hearth. Gobber stood up, passing his empty bowl to Thora before detaching his ladle, which he also handed to her. "Don't stay up too late," he told the both of them. Yawning, he stretched his back and scratched the top of his head. "Tomorrow's a big day for ya both. Don't want ya t' be exhausted through it. Goodnight, Thora, Hiccup." He leaned over and kissed the top of Thora's head; he gave Hiccup a small wave.
"Night, da'," replied Thora.
"Night, Gobber," said Hiccup. He followed Thora into the pantry, where a single candle was burning on the counter. He waited until the thudding of Gobber's peg leg fell silent on the ceiling above them before quietly speaking. "You looked nervous earlier when we were talking about your apprenticeship."
"Ya noticed, huh?" she sighed. Lifting a large bucket, she poured water into a wooden basin.
"A bit, yeah." He picked up one of the bowls and dunked it into the basin, beginning to scrub it clean with soap. "What's got you worried?"
"What hasn't got me worried? Hiccup, I'm goin' t' be learnin' how t' heal an' how t' use magic. I'm goin' t' become a witch!" She took the now-clean bowl from him and dried it off with a towel. "It's dauntin'! No, more than that –it's frightening." Shaking her head, she felt her tail droop and hit the floor. "There are so many things that can go wrong! Seiðr can be way more dangerous than a dragon."
Hiccup frowned; he hadn't ever known Thora to get so worked up over something like she was now. He reached over, having wiped it dry on his tunic, and set his hand on her shoulder. "Hey. You'll do fine," he reassured her. "Gothi wouldn't have taken you on if she didn't see something in you, right?"
"That's the thing, though –women are supposed t' know at least a lil' magic by now," she explained, "but I know nothin'! Even Ruffnut an' Astrid know the basics an' they're not even interested in magic." She handed him another bowl to clean.
He hated to admit it, but she had a point. Almost all of Berk's women knew how to do some sort of magic, whether it was imbibing a soup with healing properties or predicting the weather. "Well…it's not really your fault, you know," he told her. "Gobber's your only parent and men aren't allowed to practice magic. I'm sure Gothi will understand."
She sighed. "I hope…but, I also hope that I'm only learnin' t' heal. I don't think I'd be able t' be a full-blown Völva."
Shrugging, she took the second bowl from him when it was clean and began drying it off as well. "Well, for one an' unlikely as it is, I someday want a family. Völva can't marry." She set the bowl aside just in time to grab the third one. "Not t' mention, I doubt a half-troll like me could ever reach such a status."
"Well, then, you don't have to be one. I, for one, think it'd be good to have my nice cousin as my wise woman. Gods know I wouldn't want Snotlout giving me advice…"
Thora snorted. "Ya never know; he may be a brilliant tactician under that too-tight helmet o' his!" she joked.
At that, Hiccup let out a small, sarcastic laugh. "Yeah, right. And I'm hiding a vicious dragon killer under my clumsiness." He then exhaled just a bit too heavily, unintentionally letting Thora know something was up.
Her brows furrowed together. "Alright, now what's wrong with you?" she demanded. "Every time dragons have been brought up tonight, you've gotten quiet an' pessimisstic."
His cheeks darkened in embarrassment. "Ah…er…well, it's just something your dad said to me earlier," he half-lied.
She cringed. "Uh-oh. What was it?"
"Oh…y'know…just how I should stop trying to be something I'm not." He slouched forward. "Also known as, 'Stop trying so hard to be a Viking when you're just a shrimp.'"
Frowning, Thora dried her hands off. "You're not a shrimp!" she countered. "Look at some o' the other kids our age –the twins an' Astrid are just as lanky as you!" She gave him a light nudge with her tail, suddenly grinning. "Not t' mention, you're one o' the smartest people in Berk! Do ya know how useful that is?" Grabbing his arm with her tail, she led him back into the main room, candle in hand. She plopped him on a stool and went to build up the fire.
"But it's more than that, Thora. It made me realize something." He tiredly rubbed his face, mentally debating with himself whether he should just tell her the truth. After a few tense minutes of silence, he decided that a partial truth would be good enough. "I don't think I'm cut out to fight dragons."
She looked up from where she was crouching. "All because o' what my da' said?"
"Yes. Well, kind of. No." He shook his head, trying to clear it of the thoughts racing inside of it. "It's complicated."
"I would think. Just this mornin' you were tryin' t' prove yourself an' now ya want t' avoid the trainin' you've been wantin' since we were five." She grabbed her hair and held it back as she blew on the coals.
Hiccup watched the coals glow red, their heat igniting the dry moss and bark on the logs Thora had added. "Do you think I should go through it, even if I don't really want to? I mean, it'd at least make my dad happy and you know how hard a feat that is."
"Truth be told," she started, grabbing a piece of firewood, "I do think ya should go through with it, but not t' make your da' happy." She carefully laid the piece of wood over the small flames that had sprung up. "It's a good skill t' have, knowin' how t' fight dragons. You never know when you'll be left all on your own again."
"Says the girl who nearly got eaten by a Nadder this morning," he muttered under his breath, forgetting about her hearing.
She leaned back on her haunches, staring at him. "I knew one o' its weaknesses an' exploited it. That's how I stayed alive. You, on the other hand, need t' learn those things. Even if ya still think you don't want t' be a warrior after the trainin', it's somethin' ya need t' know."
His brow rose. "You already know their weaknesses?"
"O' course. Da' used t' read me the Book o' Dragons all the time when I was younger. Apparently, it helped me fall asleep if I had colic." She shrugged and stood up, stretching through a yawn. "No doubt, he'll have ya read it, too."
Thanks to Thora's yawn, Hiccup ended up yawning as well. "Well, it's sure to be an interesting read," he sighed. "And…I guess, you're right. I do need to know how to defend myself if ever I'm attacked." Standing up, he went over to the hammock Thora had put together for him. "That is, if I survive training."
Tugging her apron dress over her head, Thora hung it on a peg in the wall and straightened out her tunic. "Oh, don't worry about that –da' won't let ya die! He likes ya too much," she teased, trying to liven the mood. Climbing into her own hammock, she yawned again. She tugged the blanket up to her chin before curling into a ball, the hammock rocking gently from her movements. "Oh, Hiccup?"
He lifted his head, peering across the room at her. "Yeah?"
"…Thanks. For earlier. I needed t' hear that."
A small smile appeared on his face. "Yeah. Thank you, as well. I also needed to hear that." He watched as she set her head back down.
"You're my favorite demi-cousin."
He quietly laughed. "I'm you're only demi-cousin."
"Doesn't stop ya from bein' my favorite. Goodnight, Hiccup."
Rolling his eyes, but still wearing a smile, he closed his eyes. "Goodnight, Thora."