||Originally published on Jan 1st 2017 – based up to the events of RTTE S4||
[RTTE S4 ALTERNATE CONCLUSION]
The gang are focusing their efforts in fighting back Viggo, Ryker and the Dragon Hunters. The consequent conflict have left both sides low on supplies and desperate for any edge against their foes. Toothless' saddle is wrecked; the gang are spread islands apart and the archipelago awaits in anticipation as Viggo prepares to launch his final assault on Dragons Edge.
Still contains action, fluff and traces of nuts. :D
Heat poured out in blazing sparks with each stroke of the hammer; the heated Gronckle iron submitted to its new form on each point of contact. The strand of metal elegantly took form with its curved concave neck leading into a joining hinge, much like a crank handle. Yet the properties of this device much like its sister piece served a more elegant purpose. Steam hissed off the rod as it was dipped into the icy waters, cooling the metal for further configuration.
'What do you say bud? Matching set,' the young man spoke out to his best friend.
In response, the mass of black, glossy scales shifted revealing two luminous green eyes. They narrowed in on the rod examining it with curiosity, prodding it with his muzzle before looking back at his loyal rider and companion. He produced a warming warble of approval.
Dragons Edge Clubhouse, A Few Days Ago…
The winds screamed against the wooden walls of the clubhouse, but inside remained a cosy atmosphere with the added benefit of the central hearth. It was just the two of them leaning upon one another gazing over a large square of parchment strewn across the benchtop. The paper was filled with intricate sketches of topography and landforms fused together to form Dragon's Edge.
Hiccup traced his finger along the cliff side of the northern coast. 'The north tower has coverage along that sea line down to about here,' he moved his finger to the eastern forest corner. 'But the mountain side going west is a bit of a problem, there's blind spot from a spur in the slope, it blocks all view from that point, to the North West corner of the forest.'
The weight against his shoulder shifted and an elegant but strong hand emerged to the point upon the map drawing a line with one slender figure down the western slope. 'I noticed that too, but we have Night Terror sentries all across that coastline,' Astrid replied.
Hiccup nodded in agreement. 'That helps, but there is a chance the Hunters could spot them before they land and if that happens, they'll shoot them down,'
Astrid quirked an eyebrow, the beginnings of a smile teasing the edge of her lips. She attempted to calm her amusements but the stressing look on Hiccup's face sent her into fits of laughter.
'What are you laughing at? Astrid, this is about protecting the edge from Viggo and Ryker on all fronts. If they attack from behind, we need to know so we can…' he was cut off.
'Hiccup, you need to relax. They don't the island like we do, ok? You're wearing yourself down over a small blind spot they couldn't possibly know about,' Hiccup turned to face her and rest his hand on her shoulder.
Her face was calm, expressing subtle traces of concern. He followed the faint line of her freckles illuminated by the firelight. Outside the wind tore at the clubhouse creating a deafening storm, but inside the sound was muffled with the crackling of the fire left to sooth the atmosphere.
Hiccup breathed deeply before he spoke out his concerns. 'The longer we fight against Viggo. The higher the chance that one of us may not come back,' he said with the tone she knew was complete seriousness.
'Hiccup, we know the risks, that's why we follow…' Astrid tried to confide being cut short in return.
Hiccup raised his other hand gesturing her to stop, his face hard with uneasiness. 'And he learns. Viggo always learns.'
She closed her mouth seeing the grief written plainly across his expression; she hadn't seen him look this stressed, this worried since he lost the Dragon Eye to Viggo. 'The fact of the matter is, I can't stop us from taking the risks we need to in order to stop him from hunting dragons. I can however do what's necessary to stop them from sneaking in and taking us.'
Astrid placed her hands to Hiccup's cheeks, they were warm from the fire. She knew where he was leading this conversation, she could see why he was so worried about the Edge's security; he had been captured once and no one knew, except for an overly protective Zippleback.
'Hiccup, no one is going to capture us like that again, not if I can help it,' with that, she brought herself forward resting her lips upon his, linking her arms around his neck.
He followed wrapping his arms behind her back pulling her into a tight embrace. Together in each other's arms, the passion lasted as if time had paused to let the moment linger onwards. Not long enough; however, when the clubhouse shield door flung up with the assistance of a large Viking. The resulting winds blasted inside spoiling the tender moment between the couple.
'Hiccup! Astrid!' the intruder called, seemingly out of breath.
The two reluctantly broke apart at the exhausted pitch of Fishlegs' voice. His face red by combination of the winds raking at his face and having to run against it to reach them. For someone of his generous girth to dare such a task on foot, was both a physical feat to witness and a clear signal there was a problem.
'What is it Fishlegs?' Hiccup asked, his facial features returning to a state of concern.
He relinquished the embrace with both rising up to meet him. Fishlegs stammered momentarily before quickly comprehending what he had just walked in upon. As if they could burn any brighter, his plump cheeks flooded with fiery warmth enough to glow.
'I um… we, there are ships off the coast, ah, the northern coast, um, cliffs, sentry warning signal came in,' his chunky feet shifted in weight as the awkward silence lingered between the three of them; the intense winds being the only noise audible as it roared through the entrance.
Hiccup was in a void of thought as Fishlegs stared at his feet in guilt. A ship on the northern cliff side, oh for Thor's sake, its timing is as appropriate as yours. The interjection of the obvious suggestion broke him from the trance.
'Right, get everyone to their dragons, we can use the winds to our advantage, glide in on approach,' Hiccup instructed.
Fishlegs nodded quickly exiting to the raging storm outside. Hiccup began rolling up the map and stored it away for safe keeping. His head hung low, the frustration unmistakeable on his features.
Astrid took his hand in hers offering her support. 'Hey, I'm sure it's nothing. The sooner we go, the sooner we're back,' a mischievous smile danced across her lips with the shine of the fire twinkling in her eyes. He knew that look, perhaps today wasn't going to be so irritating after all.
'There we go bud, that's the best we do,' Hiccup said as he tightened the straps to Toothless saddle.
He ran his fingers across the weather beaten leather; there were small cracks riddled along the entire length of the contraption. Even with the wax, this saddle was beginning to wear thin in its durability. Hiccup looked around to the other riders adjusting their harnesses before they launched to investigate the approaching ships in the north. Snotlout was loading Nightmare gel bombs into his pack, a new addition to their arsenal courtesy of the twins. Speaking of which, the destructive duo whilst on a fast of creating unnecessary havoc were strapped and holding steady against the blaring winds. Behind him, Fishlegs had Meatlug were equipped for managing the brewing storm which now had dark clouds on the horizon. She may have been the best for stability among the dragons, but even in this weather it was going to take some caution.
A hand lay on Hiccup's shoulder averting his attention from the stiffened pulley lines on Toothless' tail. He turned to find both Astrid and Heather set for flight and the possibility of combat.
'You ready,' she asked him as Heather mounted Windshear, the Razorwhip flourishing her gleaming, metallic scales.
Hiccup replied with a quick peck on Astrid's cheek before mounting Toothless, testing the driver pedals. The right pedal eased with function drawing the tail fin roll movements. His prosthetic attachment on the other hand gripped against the joints, squeaking with age. There was no time to fix the problem now, he would just have to make do until they returned. All this time he was worried about maintaining a tight security system on the Edge and ensuring his friends were healthy in both body and mind, he had completely neglected maintenance on his own saddle. He fastened the straps for the dragonfly two wingsuit and hoisted the harness restraints on to the wearing saddle, he noticed even they looked worse for wear. Another thing to add to the list once they got back, fix the saddle, fix his flight harness and then the promise of a seductive surprise.
He faced Astrid again who was tightening the last strap for Stormfly's saddle. 'Alright gang, remember this is a reconnaissance mission. We need to find out whose ship it is first before we go in for an attack. Otherwise you know the drill by now, if there are dragons freeing them is the priority, let's go,'
The line up of dragons spread their wings in a colourful composition before launching into the air off the wooden landing strip. The winds rocked their stability with Hookfang drifting significantly before correcting himself, much to the shock of his boastful rider. The others followed in quick succession, Stormfly, Meatlug, Windshear, Barf and Belch and holding the tail end, Hiccup and Toothless.
The Night Fury took a running leap into the harsh air wavering against the force, Hiccup struggling to better correct his fin. 'Come on, just open up!' The fin snapped open stabilizing Toothless flight allowing him to power through the tight pack from underneath and lead.
The Northern Coastline…
The winds were definitely strengthening as the dragon riders touched down on the northern lookout. The snow layer on the mountainside induced the air with a nasty bite much to the riders' dismay. Even with adjusting to the cold temperatures on Berk during the winter months, the weather was beginning to warm again resulting in more discomfort from the icy air on an already miserable day.
Hiccup pulled his spyglass from his rucksack to peer at the small shapes brewing on the horizon. 'Yep, there are definitely ships out there. Oh no,' He recognised the distinct ship design and the red fist emblazoned on the sails.
'What is it?' Astrid asked.
Hiccup tossed her the spyglass. 'Dragon Hunters.'
It was just as he feared, Hunter ships on the northern shores right in the blind spot from the watchtowers. With high winds and a faulty tail fin, this was going to be a difficult assault but it had to be done and he didn't need the others worrying about Toothless and himself. He would just have to hold out as long as possible and hope the rods would hold. Astrid threw back the spyglass and he deposited it into the carry pack.
There were three ships on the waters armed with the standard arsenal from what he could make out. 'Ok gang, we're going to perform a lightning manoeuvre. We can use the sea stack to our advantage if we stick to the cover for as long as possible and use the up draft on the furthest stack, we should gain enough velocity to shoot out across the surface below their line of sight. I'll go in first and cause enough of a distraction for you guys to catch up. Ruff, Tuff, you and Fishlegs work on locating any captured dragons, get them out as fast as you can. Snotlout, have Hookfang aim for the sails and masts, use your gel bombs. Astrid and Heather, you use your dragons spines to cut the ropes and burn a hole in their rudder, we don't want them to get away. Stay safe and use the winds to your advantage,' Hiccup instructed.
It was the most efficient plan they had up their sleeve and against the standard ships, it worked a charm. He just hoped that Viggo or Ryker weren't aboard, then things would become complicated. Ryker they could handle well enough, he wasn't a dull brute like their commanders but he didn't inherit the vast strategic intellect of his brother either. He knew enough to deal swift damage and make a successful exit. Viggo on the other hand was a cunning nemesis. His brilliance matched his malevolence had time and time again thwarted the riders' retaliations suffering only minor losses compared to his major profits. Collateral and emotion meant nothing to him, it was after all only business. Nonetheless it was a business that was taking its toll on Hiccup and his friends. With every defeat they suffered, their courageous leader would bear it the hardest, working himself down with a way to up hand his rival; all the while he was trying to do so without the guidance of the Dragon Eye. On the surface, he seemed fine with his spirits mostly intact but only those closest could tell something was burning him away from within.
The sound of gears and pulleys clicked before a blur of black scales leaped from the mountain side. Hiccup and Toothless were beginning their run; the other riders followed suit diving down the cliff side breaking the air currents and flying through the outlying stacks of rock. With every weave, the Night Fury accelerated further opening the gap between himself and the other riders. Hiccup crouched low against the saddle minimising resistance as they left the last of the sea stacks and powered along the surface of the thundering waves. The salty mist from the breaks wafted into his face as a streamline wake was left disrupting the waters by their phenomenal speed.
'Ok Toothless, multiple blast at the bow, if we blow a hole large enough to let water in slowly, it'll give the others enough time to get any dragons out before it sinks,' Hiccup devised.
The Hunter vessels were approaching fast ahead leaving a small window of opportunity to get the best shot. The signature screech whistled through air catching the attention of the Hunters before three lightning blasts of plasma impacted against the bows, rupturing the integrity of the ships in spectacular fashion. The duo shot between the ships before circling high into looming cloud bank that thickened with the growing storm.
'Night Fury! Get down!' The Hunters cried falling behind crates of arrows and nets.
Others brought themselves to arm peering over the rails attempting to find where the streak of black had vanished. 'Where'd they go?' one asked, arrow in hand. Another came up from behind furious over their fail plan.
'Never mind that, how did they find us? Ryker said there was a blind spot in their watch towers,' He fumed.
Unbeknownst to the hunters, the other riders made swift use of Hiccup's distraction flying in undetected. Thus, the lightning manoeuvre commenced in smooth motion; Toothless emerged from the clouds and plummeted towards the central ship. The velocity of the winds were intensifying, rocking the dragon's dive.
'Hold it steady bud, aim for the mast,' he said feeling the weight shift uneasily to the left.
Another streak of purple destruction exploded at the mast base unbalancing it under the weight. 'Yeah, that a boy Toothless,' he cheered as they levelled out above the water taking another wide circle for a better angle.
He looked back along the saddle checking the ropes; everything was holding steady for now and on the pass he spotted the other riders beginning their assault. Snotlout was the first in to wreak havoc; The red Monstrous Nightmare emerged through the smoke with a mighty entrance.
'Alright Hookfang, let's hit em' hard,' he blared reaching into his pack for the pots of gel.
With a muscle fuelled arm, he threw a pot against the mast with Hookfang spewing flames to ignite the gel soaked masts in a great explosion. They took to the air again riding the wind currents by the other ships. The first ship glowed in awesome destruction as it dipped forward beneath the waves
'Get in there Fishlegs, before it goes down!' Snotlout yelled to the burly Viking.
Meatlug touched down aboard the wrecked ship. The remaining crew cowering for their lives as they abandoned their posts overboard. Stormfly and Windshear soared overhead breaking pace for the middle and far left ships. Fishlegs waved them off as he attempted to open the deck hatch; it was battened down before the firefight.
'Meatlug, use your tail,' he called for his dragon.
She waddled over aligning her rear and bring down her bludgeon like tail with tremendous force, enough to spilt rocks. The deck hatch splintered under the force, falling into the depths of the ship. Fishlegs slid down the ladder inside the hull with Meatlug close by his side and began working on cages. There were two Deadly Nadders and another Gronckle trapped inside; the water flooding into the lower deck was already up to his knees by the time all the cages were loose.
Fishlegs hastily mounted up onto Meatlug. 'Get us out of here girl,' he instructed.
With that, the Gronkle blasted a larger hole through the main deck for the other dragons to escape. The flames licking the air as they rose into the air. Hiccup watched as the wild dragons made soared out to sea for a safe island.
'Alright, that's one ship down, two to go!' he observed, aiming with Toothless for a direct course on the furthest ship. They rocked in the air unbalanced as the winds reached their peak yet still covering ground to where they were focusing their efforts. In the meantime, Astrid and Stormfly where on the deck of the ship trailing lines of magnesium flame. Astrid dismounted herself from the saddle, surfing the Nadder before wielding her favourite battle axe in full force.
'Launch me Stormfly!' She directed.
The dragon executed the instruction without flaw, bucking her hips high and extending her tail to flick several golden spines that cleared a landing zone for her rider. Astrid was shot into the air looping with a summersault drawing down her axe on several ropes connected to the main sail. The Hunters circled back to back to face the Nadder and the young women; of course, whatever hope was left vanished with each precise flourish of the sharpened axe head. She brandished her axe with grace weaving elegantly between the brutish Hunters and her feet skipped from side to side like a dance. Toothless blazed overhead; a flash of explosive light scorched the Hunter suddenly at the mercy of her axe. She peered up at Hiccup where a smirk was drawn across his face inspecting the carnage.
'Hey, he was right where I wanted!' She yelled at him, trying to play an annoyed tone.
'And now he's right where I wanted,' he remarked.
She couldn't help but smile back; his mood in spite of a decent scrap seemed to have improved. Stormfly scuttled over for Astrid to climb on and in one flowing movement she used the Nadder's momentum to swing onto her back. There were sounds of large explosions erupting behind her; only one thing that could be, or four when counting heads.
'Hit it again, hit it again!' Ruffnut egged her brother on.
'I couldn't agree more my dear sister,' Tuffnut replied.
A line up of hunters were engulfed in Zipppleback gas attempting to flee when the green flavoured air ignited into flame lighting up their lives some more. 'And now for our final trick, we shall pull dragons from our helmets,' Tuffnut declared standing up on his stirrups.
Barf and Belch broke down through the charred deck releasing dragons from the containment. Through the smoke, the Hunters on deck attempted to regain their sense of direction after the concussive blast of Zippleback fire. One Hunter crawled towards the edge of the blacked hole only to come face to face with an up turned helmet extending from the smoke.
'What the?' the hunter gasped in utter confusion.
Arising from the smoke, a purple Monstrous Nightmare roared out at his captors. The last thought to be verbalised was fortunately drowned out by the searing expulsion of flame and whistling winds. The Nightmare content with his revenge, elevated steeply into the sky. From out of the smouldering darkness, four heads appeared basking in the glorious sight that lay before them.
'That was easily our best show yet. One day Ruffnut, one day people will finally appreciate the practise of wizardry,' Tuffnut gloated with content.
'But we didn't actually pull dragons from helmet, did we?' Ruffnut replied unconvinced with the glory her brother was bestowing upon himself.
'Perhaps, perhaps not. You see, it's all about the illusion, so long as the audience thinks we did, then we might as well have,' he concluded.
Ruffnut pondered before examining the empty boat. 'Wait, what audience?' she gesturing to the smouldering deck.
'Eh, good point,' he shrugged.
With only the central ship left and stranded from Toothless' initial barrage, the dragon riders executed the final touches needed to bring the ship down. Upon Windshear's back, Heather extended her double-bladed battle axe holding it steady as windshear swerved between the ropes supporting the damaged mast. With each pass, she swiped at the ropes cutting them clean; the mast crumbled under the pressure crashing onto the deck and sprayed wood and metal overboard. The remaining crew, lost and panicking began to cower and run. Their captain on the other hand stood firm despite the undeniable loss.
'We may have lost this fight men, but we can still take them on our way down. Aim for the Night Fury!' He commanded.
The few loyal hunters gathered in arms with bows and arrows; they lined up together across the starboard side aiming with the wind. 'Use the wind to your advantage men,' the captain ordered drawing back an arrow aiming it ahead of the Night Fury.
Astrid caught a glimpse of the men taking aim at Hiccup and Toothless as they entered their next run. She tried to call out to them, but the wind carried away her warning. Toothless swooped low for a barrage along the hull focusing on his accuracy when Hiccup looked up at the critical moment to see the last of the hunters aiming for them. Time seemed to slow down in those few lingering seconds as explosive blasts rained down upon the men, but not before a volley was released. Hiccup pulled up on the saddle grips directing Toothless to rise. Feeling the resistance, Toothless made a last second adjustment twisting his body into a corkscrew roll creating a driving momentum that pushed them into a steep climb. The climb fluctuated dangerously as several loud metallic fractures echoed above the raging screams of the wind. Hiccup felt is left leg get tugged out from underneath him as the pedal snapped from under the strain of the manoeuvre further claiming his metal foot with it. The sudden jolt of pressure in turn shredded the threads on Hiccup's harness where he tumbled out of the saddle.
'Toothless!' He cried with an attempt to secure a grip on anything. The Night Fury pivoted in mid air flailing his wings for stability as his artificial tail fin was ripped from its connecting rods.
In a final, last ditch effort, Hiccup latched onto a dorsal fin and managed to secure himself on the end of Toothless' tail. But with no fin, the sea was fast approaching; it must have been madness that gave Hiccup his grand escape plan because even as a he hooked the fastening clip and tugged at the strap, he knew there was a great chance they would become fish bait with a side of drift wood. Hiccup closed his eyes and spread his right arm deploying half the dragonfly wingsuit praying to the Gods this crazy half reconciled plan might work to save both their lives. Hanging onto dear life with one foot and half his left leg, the rapid decent eased into a rocky glide as Toothless pulled through, barely break the waters' surface. Slowly hiccup eased his lids open to the currents of air bustling in full force around them; the water fell away beneath and he sigh in relief that disaster had once again been stayed from inflicting mortal injury. Hiccup, tentatively lifted his gaze to see the last hunter ship sink beneath the waves. The mission was a success, the first victory in a good long while but with that, the air flow suddenly changed blast of wind buffeted them violently.
'ARGH! Toothless, we gotta get to land,' he wheezed, arms straining against the currents.
Astrid was flying hard on his wake in the inevitability of disaster; in time too as the elements proved too strong ripping away Hiccup's iron grip. 'Toothless!' he grunted as the Night Fury cried out in shock.
'Hiccup!' Astrid gasped, diving in to catch him.
With strived efficiency he managed to deploy the other wing and glide off; Toothless on the other hand continued to flail towards the crashing waves earning the right of priority. 'Stormfly!' she pointed after the Night Fury.
Hiccup rocked and curled with the storm raging around him; rain had reached the shore glazing the world with a haze. He tried tilting his body to adjust his path but the winds ended up catching the new angle redirecting his flight again. The air was becoming colder again, a sign he was approaching some sort of land mass. He looked up to see an immense land form taking shape in front of him, the Edge. The first of the sea stacks appeared beneath him and at a rate that would exceed his current descent by the time he reached them.
'Toothless. Toothless! TOOTHLESS!' He screamed pulling at the wings to guide his path away. 'Oh no. Nonononono NO!' he squinted his eyes against the tearing winds and rain driving his path beyond any control.
The stack grew in its ominous form ever sealing the impending doom. 'ARRRGH!'
The wind bleared in his ears up until the fateful change of force to which signalled his impact. Yet, the wind was still whistling in his ears where the forces against him shifted into a steep rise, moving in even strides against his chest.
'Gotcha!' a very familiar, confident voice echoed in his ear.
He slowly opened his eyes to a shimmering sea of silver scales; the distinct sound of metal being stroked by a wet stone filling his ears. With extreme caution as to not upset the dragon's rhythm, Hiccup glanced upwards to a waterfall of black glossy hair. He bolted upright being hit with the hard truth that it was Windshear that caught him. He was still alive.
'Heather? Heather! Oh thank Thor,' he stuttered in disbelief.
'Thor? If anything he was trying to kill you, again,' Heather exclaimed.
Hiccup cycled the comment through his shock ridden brain settling on the logic behind it. 'He does that from time to time,' he laughed, remembering how many times the god of thunder was the cause of many daring events.
He looked down at his right leg to find it intact, wiggling his toes inside the boot for good measure. Hiccup breathed a sigh of relief before his mind caught up with his body, the last overwhelming thoughts fresh in his memory.
'Toothless! Where are the others?' he peered back through the storm to empty skies.
'On their way back,' Heather relayed. 'It's alright Hiccup, Astrid got him.'
His shoulders fell in relief; mind spiralling into a stupor of mixed emotions in the aftermath of despair. 'What would I do without them Heather?'
To be Continued in RECUPERATION