Disclaimer: Valhallarama and Stoick belong to Cressida Cowell and Dreamworks, not me. :'(
This is my take on Valhallarama's absence in the film. Explanations for her characterization can be found at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!
She grinned at him. Dragons ravaged their livestock, Vikings bled and bellowed, and still she could smile. Blood stained the cracks of her teeth and her skin glistered in the firelight, smudged and cracked, but she was every bit as beautiful to him as the day she stood fresh and flower-scented at their wedding.
It was more than her smile that drew Stoick towards Valhallarama, even as battle blistered around him. He felt compelled to check in on her with every break between conflicts. He needed proof that he still had her. An irrational tenancy to indulge in battle, but one she tolerated.
"Yeh alright?" Stoick asked. They were always the first words from his mouth, even when he knew her answer.
Valhallarama wiped the sweat from her upper lip with the back of her hand and thumped her fist against her chest as if to prove her sturdiness. Her hair was pulled from her braids in several, dirty tresses and she sported a busted lip, among countless other nicks and bruises. But she stood, and she smiled.
"I'm a mite hungry," she confessed. Her eyes darted toward the Mead Hall. "What do yeh say to some rye bread, eh?" Stoick's disapproving frown encouraged her to start prodding his stomach with the pommel of her sword. "Com'n. While the baker's still distracted?"
Even at six and twenty Valhallarama managed to maintain an impish grin better suited for a child.
Stoick shook his head. "They're gonna be comin' back up the eastern ridge any moment now—they'll scent the livestock. They always do."
"Second wave," Hoark bellowed, his finger pointing at a Viking waving a signal torch in the distance.
"Hoist those torches!" Stoick snapped at the Hooligans closest to them. "Make sure the battlements are manned."
"Show time," Val said. She spun her sword once, flexing her wrist.
The night may have impeded his vision, but Stoick's sharp eyes caught the stagnancy of her left shoulder. He snatched the arm attached, which she had been hiding with a subtle turn of her body
"Oi!" Val protested, but she couldn't keep the wince from her face when Stoick took it. He peered at the torn wraps and the punctured skin from where blood oozed, to thick and black and slow to be healthy.
Stoick ignored her halfhearted tugs and sniffed it. His face darkened. "This is—"
"A wee bite," said Val. However, her voice lost some of her earlier spirit.
Stoick grunted. "My ass. A wee Zipplebackbite. Yeh need tae get that looked at, before the next wave—"
Val pulled her hand back, succeeding with additional force, and gestured southeast with the tip of her sword.
"Too late," she said. The overhead chorus of screeching renewed as a fresh string of dragons swooped down on the village.
Stoick cast a wary eye skyward, conflicted.
"I'll go as soon as we send these bastards flying. My arm'll be fine."
"A slow moving poison," she cut him off again. "And all I'll get outta this is a nasty scar."
Stoick took a troubled breath.
"Yeh promise?" he asked.
"Yes," Val said. She pressed her lips to his in a chaste kiss, wanting to ease his worry (and he was always sucha worrier). "I promise... Now let's go show these devils what Hooligans are made of!"
She gave no other warning when she sprang away from Stoick, slapped his rear with the flat side of her blade, and ran, laughing, toward the North side of the village before he could press the issue any further.
Stoick stared after her, bewildered. It took the near miss of a Nadder's fire stream to pull his mind back into battle.
Valhallarama loved battle. She loved the focus she fell into and the weight of steel in her palm, she loved the risk and rewards, and she loved experiencing new opponents. It was why she indulged in questing so much—the unknowns, the chance upons, the stories upon storiesshe could tell...
So she welcomed the challenge of fighting off-balance. Her arm wasn't useless yet; numbed and sluggish, yes, but she had enough control to slice the scales from a Nightmare's wing and clock a Gronkle in the face so hard it went cross-eyed. The Nightmare screeched and flailed back from the pigs she protected. The Gronkle, disoriented, stumbled off into a waiting net.
Val smiled at the result, satisfied with the retribution delivered to the dragons for daringto raid her village.
She had a great tolerance for the finer things in life, if she said so herself. How could she not? What, with a father who claimed to be a philanthropist and soothsayer. But her tastes always lay in combat. When given the choice, she would much prefer to take up arms than talk through a problem.
That's why she loved Stoick—for who she got to bewith him. She could indulge in her more base desires, the sort that would make her father purse his lips.
Having cleared the immediate area of dragons, Val took an opportunity to breathe. She scanned the southern shore for her husband of eight years and frowned when he didn't crop up.
If he wasn't by the harbor then he must be by the fish storage...
A shadow passed overhead and, on instinct, Valhallarama looked up. She just caught sight of a Gronkle's scarred underbelly as it zoomed toward the Higher Hills of Berk.
Her awareness shifted. She no longer felt the sweat that cooled her temples, but she could feel the blood pulsing in her ear and hear the muted rush of flame. She became hypersensitive to the lighting around her, the flashes.
Memories were a strange thing. The ones cherished would sooner slip through the fingers of time, while those rather forgotten clung to the mind liked the poisoned grip of a Strangulator. Valhallarama could not remember her third kiss with Stoick or the embrace of her long-dead mother, but every terrifying close-call during a raid was as bright and loud as the day she experienced them.
And she recalled this Gronkle. She recalled the scar of its belly.
Her stomach clenched with a cold fear.
Valhallarama would never know the desperation of her voice that evening, of that moment; she hadn't realized she screamed until she felt the rawness of her throat in later hours. Only the burning doorway of her home had her attention, beyond which her son was trapped.
Her legs pumped, one after another, her mind emptied save for one objective.
Val felt herself following the same actions of her past, following that same Gronkle, as the memory of seasons past replayed, because she couldn't allow distraction to cost her precious time.
She could just make out Hiccup through the flames, curled against the wall. The fire highlighted the terror on his features.
The Gronkle saw what she saw, and opened its maw, the glow of molten rock bright beyond stained teeth.
"No..." she whispered and she struggled to gain ground.
A turf roof was blasted by an unseen dragon mere feet from her but she hardly felt the sear to her skin or the flecks of sod to her body. Her eyes were fixed on that Gronkle and its destination.
She leapt, sword raised, her bellow coalescing to the song of battle. The Gronkle squealed as the tip of Val's sword sliced the soft meat of its underbelly. It rolled way, still airborne, spitting rock and blood. Val put her back to the flaming door, her knees bent and sword readied. A snarl to shame any wolfhound curled her lips. The Gronkle retreated in defeat, but not without turning its hypnotic gaze on her.
Val remembered those eyes. Glassy and hateful, fixed on the human who wounded it and the structure she so desperately protected. She would forever remember that Gronkle and what it almost cost her. It was only human to do so.
But how could that Gronkle remember her? Or remember the home it once tried to destroy?
She wanted to stew on this, to play it off as a fluke—a coincidence, a different Gronkle, perhaps—but her gut told her otherwise. It was going to finish what it started. Why else would it fly so far from where they kept the livestock? Dragons were capable of vengeance and wrath, it was known, and she'd be damned if her son suffered for it. She had kissed Hiccup's brow only hours before, and set him to bed before the raid occurred; she'd make it her mission for him to wake on the morrow never knowing he had been in danger. It was her duty as his protector, and as his mother.
Val dashed past Spitelout, who grappled with a Zippleback, and rolled under a low flying Nadderhead. Its talons caught and tore the back of her tunic, but she ran on. The Nadder was someone else's problem. She had one priority now.
Val would make it before that demon reached her son. She would make it even though she ran uphill and even though she lacked the gift of flight because she was a Viking of Berk and there was no way a Gronkle would get the best of her.
The burn in her thighs went unfelt and the sweat slickening her hold on her sword's grip wet unheeded. She refused to acknowledge her left arm altogether. It would hold out a little longer. The læknir would save it. If not him, then Gothi.
"OI!" she shouted after the beast. It paused in its flight to look back and she took advantage by closing the distance between them.
"Yeah I'm talkin' tae you, yeh flyin' shit monger!"
To her distress, but not surprise, the Gronkle turned away from her and zoomed toward the chief's house.
"Oh, no yeh don't," she said under her breath. Val pulled her throwing dagger from her belt with her free hand and threw the weapon with deft precision. It tore the wing but not enough to cost the Gronkle it's flight—damn that Zippleback!
The lack of control over her arm shocked Val. It reached a stage where she could no longer command it functionally for battle, but she had no mind to be concerned over the injury. The Gronkle was close enough to her home to lay fire.
Her baby boy was inside.
She saw its jaws spread.
Just like last time...
Val scarcely registered her surroundings, her body acted on impulse. Taking advantage of an overturned wheelbarrow, she ran up the structure, onto the highest post of a wood fence, and leapt.
The Gronkle's blast veered to the left as Val landed on its back. Chucks of earth flew into the air, but her home remained intact.
"NOT ON MY WATCH," she roared, driving her weapon down to supplement her weight. "NOT TO MY SON!"
Her sword bit down into the Gronkle's thick shoulder but did little more than annoy it. Somewhere in her mind, Val knew steel weapons were near useless on a Gronkle's armor—the belly and wings, that's what she should aim for—but she didn't care. She'd get to it later. Right now she wanted this Gronkle to hurt. To die. To never threaten her family again.
She hacked at its back, taking out flecks of hide, then chunks, and finally blood. The Gronkle continued to spin and scream and the world around her blurred. The fury of a kill colored her vision; everything else was shut out as she held tight to the Gronkle with her knees and weakened left hand and sawed and slashed and hewed. If she could only take off a wing, drive her blade into it's neck deep enough to bleed out...
Val didn't realize something was amiss until the Gronkle started falling away from her.
That didn't make sense. Dragon's don't fall...
Val's gaze shifted to her arm, the one that was supposed to maintain a hearty grip on the beast's wing. It was purple and limp-fingered. She barely recognized it.
Her activity must have pushed the poison through her because everything felt numb. The world moved too slowly, or her mind too fast. She was picking things up without the ability to react to them.
There was nothing solid beneath her. In another mind, Val realized she was falling. She felt no terror. Bemusement, yes. And light. Free and light.
How did this happen?
Poisoned arm. Exhaustion. Miscalculation. A mean-spirited Gronkle.
She hoped it died. She never finished taking off its wing...
Alarm pricked through the haze of shock. Images guttered in her mind like a dying flame—blurry, faded, confusing—all in the blink of an eye. She saw vikings in a flash of environment as she grappled with the Gronkle. A face here or there. She swore she saw Spitelout among them. Perhaps Phlegma as well.
People had noticed, her mind assured her and some of the alarm eased. They noticed her home and the Gronkle near it. They would stop the beast if she could not.
Was she still falling? Yes.
She didn't pay attention to where they flew in her fury to get the dragon away from her son, or how long the tussle lasted, but it must have been high. If she were lucky the fall would knock her out. She wanted to try and land but her mind still failed to connect with her body.
She didn't know how long this impact would take to recover from. A week? A month? Certainly long enough to put her questing on hold.
She didn't know if her arm could be saved, despite her assurances to Stoick.
I hope Hiccup is okay. He'll worry. He worries like his father.
But Val didn't worry. She didn't worry enough, Stoick often told her.
As did her father.
And, lately, her son.
Air rushed toward her from every angle and the voiceless chaos smothered her awareness. Blood loss and poison made her dizzy.
Val stared at a patch of sky free from dragon or fire, a sense of detachment and resignation calming any panic that tried to take hold, and watched as the stars blinked down at her. She knew those stars like she knew the embrace of her husband, like she knew the loyalty of her crew and the love of her son. They guided her on countless quests, and would guide her on countless more.
Her eyes slipped shut and the world returned to her. She heard voices. Screams.
Where shall my next quest take me?
It's another onesy from me! Some of you may realize that this illuminates the death Hiccup implied in Hitchups, and it does. I thought about putting this in Without a Hitch, but since it also reflects my canon thoughts I decided to keep it separate from my other stuff.
Val's character: Many people have Valhallarama as an older, female version of Hiccup to explain away Hiccup's "eccentricities". The problem is, we don't really see that in the books - the only place where Valhallarama exists at the moment. She's tolerant, absolutely, but fierce and very much Viking. It's Old Wrinkly who Hiccup takes after the most. I wanted those characterizations to connect with the movie as well. Besides, explaining away Hiccup's behavior as simply taking after a character who is absent is kinda lame. Val is way too "viking" to be like Hiccup.
If anyone's wondering, that Gronkle managed to live another seven years. Until it made the mistake of offering the Green Death one, measly fish. XD
Thanks to Sir Nick for betaing and Strider for the title and summary help. You guys are baws.
So, what did you think? Sad? Bittersweet? Unfair? Let me know!