Inspiration music: "Stoick Finds Beauty" from John Powell's album. My fanfic title goes to that track on the HtTYD2 soundtrack.
"That boy! Never where he's suppose to be!" Stoick said, thumping a fist into the rumblehorn. Skullcrusher flicked an ear at the Viking as he continued flying.
Gobber was next to him, idly playing with his beard. "Aye. Because he's always off on an adventure. And right when you think you can't find him. Well, there he shows up, and it's—."
When Skullcrusher flattened his ears, Stoick raised his hand silencing Gobber.
The two men gave themselves a moment to adjust to the slower flight of their dragons, as they took a look around the empty ocean and sky. The landscape was empty besides for slow-moving glaciers and flurries of snow. By tomorrow, or even in just a few hours, the landscape would be totally different. The cold added to the gray in Stoick's hair that he'd blamed on his wayward son.
Keeping his eyes on his surroundings, Stoick leaned closer to his dragon. "What is it boy?"
The rumblehorn hesitated, obviously unsure.
"There," Gobber said, gesturing with his hook to a movement to the east. A lithe shape between the wind and the clouds.
Stoick watched for just a moment. It was big. Much bigger than many of the Berk dragons. Old battle senses helped him realize that he and Gobber didn't have the backup to successfully win or outrun this dragon. It just took a moment before he said, "Up!" And guided his heavy rumblehorn higher with Gobber right behind.
They burst through the cloud cover, the gray light of the storm below fading into dusk.
Then they waited. Gobber, as always, on his right.
The attack started out as a trick, an intimidation factor. A masked figure rose briefly above the clouds. If any of the Berk riders had tried that trick in front of Stoick he'd have them cleaning something non-breakable and non-flammable for a month.
The mask was meant to intimidate, Stoick thought as he surveyed the enemy rider and reached behind him for his axe. He wasn't one for air battles, but there'd be a first for everything.
Gobber's axe was already in his hand and his hook was ready. Skullcrusher bellowed his warning. And that was the only warning to be given as a huge dragon burst from the cloud cover. The masked figure was balanced on its back in an impressive display of dexterity. Even on the ground this rider might give Stoick some trouble. And the dragon. It was good thing Hiccup wasn't here at this moment, because it was certainly an impressive one.
As the huge dragon settled in front of them with its double wingbeat, the masked figure raised its staff to point at them. Clouds were whipped apart by the wingbeats in the immediate area.
The dragons grumbled their discontent at the brief pause, and Stoick rumbled out, "We're ready when you are."
The staff that pointed at them wavered, then dropped. The masked figure staggered a step back. If that's all it took, this battle could be over quick. The double winged dragon hesitated and dropped beneath the clouds.
"Oi! Come back here ya yellow-bellied…"
Stoick tuned out Gobber's insults with ease and watched the clouds. He was just in time to see the double-winged dragon burst out of the cover a little to their left. Grump and Skullcrusher growled as they swerved to meet it.
But all the dragon and masked rider did was a slow circle, cutting through the clouds with ease.
"Stop ya dancin'. We ain't here for that," Gobber said, waving his hook for emphasis.
The double winged dragon continued circling, getting closer on each pass. The masked rider was watching them. Something was different here, Stoick thought as he shifted his hands on his axe.
As the dragon passed in front of him again the masked rider twisted for a closer look and said with almost a whisper, "Stoick?"
At Gobber's cry, Skullcrusher twisted to miss a dive-bombing dragon, and Stoick brought the dragon around again.
"Wait!" the rider cried at the dragons that suddenly surrounded them. Looking at Gobber and Stoick she muttered, "Impossible."
The masked rider was a woman. Her accent from the Meridian of Misery, possible former shield maiden. He hadn't heard of any dragon riders with her skill from any of the other tribes willing to try riding dragons.
"What are you doing on a dragon?"
"Well, you see it's called flying. And we're actually looking for someone. He's about yea-high," Gobber said, gesturing to his shoulder, never minding they were hundreds of feet in the air and Hiccup had grown in the last few years. "He's insatiably curious, won't stop asking questions, and he's actually looking for a dragon-slaver. Have you seen him?"
But the dragon rider ignored Gobber, just flying a little bit closer, but still out of Skullcrusher's range. She asked again, "Stoick?"
The man in question didn't actually say anything, just glared at her.
"We actually need to be going ma'am," Gobber said. "We don't have time for staring contests or the like. So, if you aren't gonna be doing anything, we'll just be on our way."
The rider didn't look at Gobber, but reached up. Stoick prepared for the attack. He wasn't prepared for what happened next. He never expected to see her face again, except in Valhalla.
Her face had haunted him throughout the years and now it was here, hundreds of feet in the air, surrounded by clouds and huge glaciers too big for most Viking ships below. She was here. With a tremble, nineteen year old memories unburied themselves and her name tumbled from his lips. "Valka."
He was staring. Staring like he hadn't since he was fourteen and she first started talking to him.
But she was staring too.
"Stoick. What? How?" she said. Her dragon was suddenly too far away.
There was silence for a moment, only broken by Gobber chuckling briefly to himself. "Alright. Valka. Right," he said. Shaking his head, Gobber gestured to the hotburple. "Well this is Grump."
And for the first time since she got close enough, Valka tore her eyes away from Stoick and looked at the other Viking.
With her eyes off him, Stoick was able to take a breath and remembered Hiccup. He coughed into his fist and realized it still had his axe in it. Slowly putting the axe away, he coughed into his hand again and said, "And this is Skullcrusher."
Valka's eyes ran over the rumblehorn before reaching down to pat her massive dragon. She nodded slowly and said, "This is Cloudjumper."
They were back to staring again.
"Ah, yes. Well," Gobber started. "Yes, kay, you see, we're looking for a boy. He's about yea-high. He's insatiably curious, won't stop asking questions, and he's actually looking for the dragon-slaver, Drago. And it's, well, Hiccup."
Both parents whipped around to look at the one-handed Viking and he smoothed his mustache briefly. "Oh, boy. Well, it's true. We do need to get going y'know, Hiccup's not waitin' for us."
AN: Hopefully the chapter is all fixed. Thanks for letting me know!