"But how are we supposed to sneak up on the boats if there aren't any boats to sneak up on?"

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III sighed gustily, suppressing the urge to bang his head against the sea stack. Thor give me patience. He steeled himself to face the object of his ire. "Because there AREN'T any boats, Tuff. You're sneaking up on Astrid and Heather, who are PRETENDING to be dragon hunter ships, remember?"

The twins exchanged a clueless look from atop their two-headed dragon. Hiccup groaned inwardly. "Evidently not."

"Well that's stupid," Ruffnut said in a scoffing tone. "Why would anyone pretend to be a boat?"

Behind him, Snotlout smacked himself in the face as Hiccup fought off the urge to do the same. "It's a training exercise, guys. The dragon hunters have an armada of ships, and if we want to free the dragons on them-"

"Without getting, you know, KILLED," Snotlout broke in.

"-we need to practice more advanced attack methods," Hiccup finished, hoping against hope that the explanation wasn't simply a waste of breath.

Tuffnut scratched his head. "So... what does that have to do with Astrid and Heather being boats? Wait, what would that be called? Heath-Astri-boat? Boat-Heath-rid... Astri-boat-ther..." He trailed off as he met the deadpan looks of the other Viking youths.

"Just pretend you see some boats when you see Astrid and Heather, okay Tuff?" Hiccup repeated wearily. Tuff didn't appear convinced, but before he could reply, Toothless shot his least plasma blast at Barf and Belch's feet. The Zippleback took off like a shot, dragging two screaming twins with him.

"Yeah, they're really going to sneak up on an armada that way," Fishlegs commented, listening to the dying wails as the twins rounded a sea stack out of sight. Hiccup rolled his eyes in agreement.

"At least they're moving," he sighed. "And when Heather and Astrid catch them, we can practice that rescue maneuver we've been working- Oh, for the love of Thor!" The young heir cut himself off as he spotted a green, two-headed dragon coming back toward them. He cupped his hands on either side of his mouth and yelled, "Guys! What are you doing?" The twins showed no signs of hearing him, but continued on course until they landed right back on the sea stack with the others. Now Hiccup was livid. "You're not supposed to come back until after your mission! You can't have reached the far side of the island yet!"

"But we saw the boat!" Ruffnut replied insistently. Tuffnut nodded in agreement.

"It was kind of small for a dragon hunter ship, though," he added, scratching his chin. "Always pictured those as a bit bigger."

Hiccup rubbed his face with his hand until the urge to throttle these two ebbed a little. "The 'boat' is smaller than a ship because it's Astrid or Heather, Tuff! Not a dragon hunter vessel! I swear, you two only ever hear what you want to hear. Now go back out there and finish the mission!" He pointed out to sea, emphasizing the order.

"It seems to me you're the one not hearing us," Tuffnut sniffed, apparently offended.

"Yeah," said Ruffnut. "We didn't say we saw Astrid and Heather, we said we saw a boat. We know what a boat is, duh." She crossed her arms.

"Wood, sails, lots of pointy metal. Right down in the cove." Tuffnut pointed to the bend of the island around which the pair had disappeared moments ago. His sister nodded enthusiastically.

Hiccup sighed and pursed his lips. On the one hand, this was the twins they were talking about. On the other hand, if there was any chance what they were saying was true, particularly the bit about weapons... "Fine. We'll come down and take a look, but if this is one of your Loki tricks, so help me Odin you two will have stable-mucking duty for the next month!" He climbed onto Toothless's back, settling his Gronkle iron shield on his own as he prepared to fly. The other riders did the same with their dragons.

"Heh heh, suckers," Snotlout called to the twins as they took off. "Can't wait to have Hookfang's stall cleared out for free! Do you even know the kind of mess he makes in there?"

"Do you mind, Snotlout? Meatlug's just eaten," said Fishlegs. "And trust me, you do NOT want her sick on a full stomach."

"Don't worry, Fishlegs, because Mr. Cocky over there's going to be cleaning his own stall tomorrow!" Tuffnut called. He and Ruffnut led the dragons to land on a muddy, pebble-strewn beach on the edge of the cove. They dismounted quickly before the others and stood shoulder to shoulder, blocking the view of the cove. Once Hiccup, Snotlout, and Fishlegs were gathered in front of them, Tuff shared a grin with his twin. "You ready, Sister Nut?"

"You know I am, Brother Nut!" she replied. They turned to face their audience once more.

"Then I present to you, ladies and gentlemen," Tuff began, then the two of them together cried, "The boat!" They sprang apart, gesturing wide with their arms to reveal-

"There's nothing there, guys," Fishlegs said. Hiccup, taking in the perfectly uninterrupted view of empty water, was to angry to voice his own comment just then.

"Ha!" Snotlout yelled, pointing at the twins. "Make sure you get feather grass for Hooky's bedding, it's the only kind he likes."

"No wait! It was just here! I swear! Right. There!" Tuffnut featured wildly to the empty stretch of cove. Hiccup's rapidly dwindling patience with the whole situation disappeared entirely when Ruff started looking under pebbles.

"All right you two, that's enough!" he yelled. "I get that you don't like the exercise but this is a ridiculous waste of our time and-" he broke off as he realized something was off. He clutched at his back, eyes widening as his hands came up empty. The shield he'd left there only minutes ago was gone. "And which of you muttonheads took my shield?" he demanded, looking at each of his friends' faces in turn. Each was as honestly bewildered as the last.

"None of us took your shield, Hiccup," Fishlegs said. Hiccup's brow furrowed.

"Then where-?"

"I might have had something to do with it," a casual, unfamiliar female voice sang out. All five dragon riders jumped in shock, looking around wildly. Before Snotlout could as much as scream, however, a figure leaped gracefully from the top of the small cliff behind them, somersaulted in mid-air, and landed in front of the party with a bow. Face angled toward the ground, the girl presented the shield to a thoroughly startled Hiccup. "Absent-minded as ever, Buccaneer Haddock."

Hiccup's mind reeled, and he stepped forward ever so slightly, those words bringing back memories he hadn't thought of in nearly ten years. The shieldmaiden in front of him was a wild-haired blonde, armed to the teeth, and... small?


Camicazi sprang up so quickly it was difficult to track her movement. But the instant his eyes met her smiling face, Hiccup knew he was right. He broke into a wide grin of his own. "Cami! It is you!" Dropping all sense of decorum, the two rushed to embrace, Camicazi carelessly tossing Hiccup's shield aside as she did. Toothless ran after the shield like a spinning disc, disappearing from sight.

Hiccup regretted that hug an instant later. Getting a hug from Camicazi was not unlike getting a hug from his dad. For all that her head only came up to the middle of his chest, she was strong as a bear and also had weapons tucked into a good many unfortunate places. Luckily, Cami hugged as she did everything else in life: quickly.

"I can't believe I found you! Your dad said you were living out here with a bunch of dragons and thought he must have had too much mead that day but here you are! You're so tall now, it is WAY not fair, but that's okay because I can still burgle you, HA! Where's your dragon? Is it that cool scary red one? Who are these guys? What happened to your leg, did a Night Fury really bite it off? How long have you been out here?"

"Okay, okay!" Hiccup laughed, holding up a hand to stave off the flow of questions from a bouncing Camicazi. Cami stopped the barrage but didn't stop moving. It had never been in her nature to stand still, Hiccup remembered. He turned to face his four friends, three of whom were looking at the newcomer with unabashed curiosity. Fishlegs was staring with outright shock. "Guys, this is Camicazi Braaten, daughter of Chief Big-Boobied Bertha and heir to the Bog-Burglar Tribe. Cami, this is Ruffnut, Tuffnut, and their Zippleback Barf and Belch, Snotlout and his Nightmare Hookfang, and you might remember Fishlegs. That's his Gronkle, Meatlug." His friends each smiled as he introduced them, and the dragons displayed themselves proudly. Fishlegs gave a shy little wave. At the sound of his name, Camicazi stopped staring at the dragons to focus her attention on Fishlegs.

"Of course I do!" she exclaimed. "Fishlegs, why couldn't you have stayed a little shrimp like me?" Fishlegs opened his mouth then shut it again, apparently unsure of how to respond. Luckily, Snotlout broke in before he had to.

"Wait, you guys are friends? And she knows Fishface?" Snotlout took a step closer to the small blonde girl.

Camicazi's demeanor changed in an instant. The smile dropped off her face, and the warmth left her light blue eyes, leaving them steely and dangerous. She marched up to Snotlout. "'She' is right here. And what's it to you?"

Snotlout blinked down at the cold face staring up at him. Unfortunately, he'd never been the best at picking up hints. Especially around pretty, eligible women. He adopted what he clearly thought was a masculine stance. "I'm just surprised he never mentioned having such a beautiful and talented friend. You know, that red dragon you liked is mine, and he'd love to take you on a flight to show you around the Edge, if you want-" he reached down as if to take her hand.

It was as is a blonde whirlwind struck. The next thing Hiccup knew, Snotlout was facedown in the mud, stripped of his helmet, weapons, and boots, and nursing a sore elbow. "Hey!" he wailed. "What was that for?"

Camicazi stood nearby, Snotlout's possessions dangling from her crossed arms. Her face was red, but not with exertion. "Put one hand on me, you piece of yak dung, and I will knock your bum between your teeth so hard you'll never open your mouth again! And then you'll have to deal with my mother."

"Cami," Hiccup said, surprised and a little reproving. Before he could reach his friend to calm her, though, she was surrounded by Ruff and Tuff.

"That was awesome! How'd you do that?" Ruff exclaimed. "Can you show us?"

"Please? Pretty please? Please with extra honey and a lingonberry on top?" Tuff added. He fell begging to his knees, hands clasped in front of him. Ruffnut followed on Camicazi's other side.

"Ugh." Cami responded with a look of deep disgust for each of them. With the twins on the ground, they were about at her eye level. "That's just pathetic." She placed a palm on each of their bent foreheads and shoved hard, flipping them both backward onto the ground. They each landed with a crash, unmoving. Then she stalked out from between them, dropping Snotlout's things beside him with the sort of look one might give a cockroach.

"Cami!" Hiccup said, reproachful now. He hurried toward Tuffnut as Fishlegs checked Ruffnut, making sure the twins weren't seriously injured. Both moaned a little but were able to sit upright with their friends' help, so Hiccup assumed they'd be okay. They were the twins, after all. That done, he stood again to glare at his childhood friend. "Why did you do that? You didn't have to hurt them!"

Cami just crossed her arms, not looking at all sorry. "Those jerks deserved it. What are you doing with these losers anyway, Hiccup? You always told me how much they hated you!"

Hiccup's eyes widened as he realized the problem. How old was he when the Bog-Burglars had last come to Berk? No more than 11, he realized. They'd been Berk's closest allies, even closer than the Berserkers under Aswald the Agreeable, until a dragon attack struck during the yearly treaty negotiations. In order to keep her people out of danger, Big-Boobied Bertha had decided to end the relations between their tribes until Berk's dragon problem was resolved. That meant the only Hiccup that Cami had ever known was the town screw-up.

And she only knew these three as his bullies.

"No! No, Cami, listen. A lot's changed in the past four years," he tried to explain. Cami didn't give him the chance.

"Not enough if these jerks are still around. I remember how they pushed you around, called you names, told you that you weren't good enough to be chief one day-"

"Thanks for that, Cami," Hiccup muttered. His early childhood years weren't something he liked to relive.

"They only stopped ignoring you to pick on you! Why would you defend them?"

"Camicazi," Fishlegs said, hesitantly. He left Ruffnut and took a few cautious steps toward the pair of heirs. "None of us would do anything like that now-"

"You're one to talk," Cami spat. "You dropped Hiccup like a hot brick once you got an in with the 'cool gang.' You're no better than they are!"

"Cami!" Hiccup broke in. He caught the blonde girl by the shoulders to stop her from speaking again. "It's not like that anymore, okay? These guys are my friends. My best friends."

"Aww, Hiccup, you're making me blush," said Tuffnut. Hiccup hadn't noticed the rest of the riders had collected themselves and gathered nearer to them. They looked stricken, probably remembering for themselves how they had treated Hiccup before the Red Death. Even Snotlout was losing the battle to act as though he didn't care.

"Fishlegs is right, though," Ruffnut said. She looked Camicazi in the eye with an uncharacteristic directness. "We'd never hurt Hiccup. He's our leader."

"Our friend," Fishlegs added, the conviction in his voice making up for his inability to make eye contact as Ruffnut had done.

"Our chief," said Snotlout, earning him startled looks from the entire group. "What? We'd be dead a million times over without you, we all know that. The Snot can give a little credit where it's due."

Hiccup got over his surprise as a flicker of warmth in his chest spilled over to the rest of him. With a smile, he said, "See? It's fine. Promise you won't attack them again?"

Cami didn't appear entirely convinced, but she did seem to be considering. That was progress. "Fine," she said with a shrug. Hiccup could take that. For all that she obviously carried a grudge, he knew that her temper was short-lived. Sure enough, after a second her expression morphed into a teasing grin. "But I might still need to punch Snotlout every once in awhile. On general principles."

"Be my guest," Hiccup laughed.

"Hey!" protested the man in question. They all laughed and the tension eased from the group. It took a second for Hiccup to realize that something else had changed, too.

"Hey, where's my satchel?" He glared at Camicazi, who averted her eyes with a smirk and held out the missing object. Hiccup shook his head in bemusement. "You just can't help yourself, can you?"

"Nope," she replied carelessly. Suddenly she was the Cami he knew again, and he couldn't help but sweep her into another hug.

"I'm glad you're back," he whispered into her shoulder. His friend responded with a quick squeeze which left him breathless and paralyzed for just a second too long.

"Heh-hem," said a VERY familiar, not-at-all-pleased female voice from right behind him. "Hope we're not interrupting something."

Hiccup instantly released Camicazi and spun to face another blonde shieldmaiden, this one tall and angry. He gulped uncertainly.

"Hey, Astrid."

A/N: This plot has been running around in my head for awhile now. It's still mostly movie-verse, except that the Bog-Burglers are a real Viking tribe. I may throw in some other nods to the books, but they won't be major plot points.

This takes place during Season 4 of RTTE, before Blindsided. Heather is a full-time dragon rider and Dagur is out of the picture for now. Astrid and Hiccup have yet to reveal their feelings for each other, but stay tuned...

Thanks for reading! I have an outline prepared for this story, which should be 8-10 chapters long. Please read and review!