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Now that I am an old, old man, the past seems very far away.
But once there were dragons in the Archipelago.
And once I was a boy, a boy who in the thirteenth year of my life made a terrible mistake.
I released the dragon Furious from the prison of Berserk.
The dragon promised to fly into exile in the icy wastes of the north for one year only. One year’s grace, and then he vowed that he would bring down a dragon rebellion whose only aim was the absolute and utter extinction of the entire human race.
Over the next year, the boy-who-once-was-me grew like a weed, at least three inches taller. My arms stuck right out of my shirtsleeves, but the year came and went, with no sign of the dragon Furious, or of his rebellion.
I heaved a sigh of relief and began to hope that perhaps the terrible hurts of a hundred years of imprisonment had been soothed by the chill of those innocent snows, and diving free and joyous through the pin-sharp cold waters, chasing the fleeting seals in that endless chilly wilderness, the dragon had returned to the happy, carefree life of his ancestors.
Perhaps he had remembered himself up there in his element, and what if he had forgotten his promise, and maybe he might not return after all?
But in the quiet watches of the night, the words of the dragon Furious came hissing and burning back into my brain, and they were not words that melted like snow into drops of water. They were words of flame, and they hissed and leaped into burning, terrible life in my dreams.
“We shall scourge this world with fire and leave no wretched human being alive, not a single one. For over the last hundred years, I have been looking into the past and into the future, and I tell you this, Boy… humans and dragons cannot live together…”
The words spat through my brain like living, burning snakes:
“… And so I will call the dragons from far and wide, from the depths of the ocean and the ends of the earth, and we shall fight the final battle before it is too late.”
“NO!” I shrieked in my dream. “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!”
But time cannot tick backward. The boy-who-once-was-me could not stop it.
And the dragon was coming.
One long-ago winter’s midnight, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third awoke with a frightened start.
Despite being the Hope and Heir to the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans, Hiccup was a gangly, skinny, ordinary-looking boy with the kind of face that was easy to overlook in a crowd.
To tell the truth, he had not been sleeping very well.
It is difficult to sleep well if one’s bed is a hammock suspended three-quarters of the way up the Hard Way of Angry Mountain.
The Hard Way of Angry Mountain is a cliff so high that it takes two days and a night to climb it. It is so vertical that a climber has to hammer in a couple of nails and spend that night sleeping uneasily in a hammock hung precariously from the shiny rock.
Hiccup’s riding dragon, the Windwalker, sleeping on a little shelf of rocks a couple of feet away, was supposed to be looking out for danger.
However, it was still winter, the Windwalker’s hibernation time, so he was barely awake even in the daytime, and now that it was night, he was sleeping so soundly he might as well have been dead. His long, untidy body sprawled messily on the ledge, and he snored as loud as a cow with a cold.
Anything dangerous would have had to come right up and sit on his head before he’d take any notice whatsoever.
Toothless, Hiccup’s tiny, selfish Common or Garden hunting dragon, had not noticed anything, either. He was fast asleep on Hiccup’s chest, sending out smoke rings that filled the hammock.
But it was danger that woke Hiccup up.
He was sure of it.
Hiccup’s heart was pumping like a jack-in-a-box, and he was suddenly wildly awake, for, with every fiber of his being, he sensed danger.
Danger all around him.
Frankly, they should have been safe enough, high up on a cliff face, in the middle of the wintertime, when most of the dangerous dragons in the Archipelago were still hibernating.
The only danger should have been if the hammock fell down.
So why did Hiccup’s heart tick so quickly, and why was his stomach so faint that he was nearly sick?
Moving very slowly (he didn’t want to dislodge himself), Hiccup peered over the edge of the hammock.
The bottom of the cliff was sickeningly far below.
Hiccup swallowed and tried not to look down.
They were so far up, he could see for miles in every direction, as if he were looking down on a map of the Archipelago. To the west, the sea. To the north, the sinister, jagged gash of the Gorge of the Thunderbolt of Thor. Farther north still, the drifting icebergs and ragged peaks of the Cold Mountains.
And here, right here, the strange mainland landscape of ice and snow, relieved by weirdly warm bubbling pools belching smoke that drifted upward like dragons snoring.
A couple of feet away on the cliff hung the patched hammock of Hiccup’s best friend, Fishlegs.
Fishlegs was snoring too, but that was probably because of his asthma. (Fishlegs was unfortunately allergic to his own dragon, Horrorcow, who was in the hammock with him.) Or it could have been his hay fever. (Fishlegs was the only person Hiccup knew who could get hay fever in the middle of the winter.)
And above, way above, was the night sky, brilliantly studded with stars.
The sky was full of noises, sounds more eerie than thunder, stranger than lightning.
High-pitched sounds that made the eardrums throb, like whales calling to each other in an alien universe.
And up there in the sky, Hiccup could see advancing black shadowy shapes, slowly flying toward them over the Gorge of the Thunderbolt of Thor.
The shapes were too far away for Hiccup to identify which types of dragon they were exactly, but there was something nightmarish about their wings, and he knew them deep in his soul.
When a young rabbit spots a hawk circling above, it may never have seen such a creature before—but there is some ancestral memory that tells it to be afraid, to leap in great, panicky bounds to the safety of the burrow. So it was with these dragons.
It was not, of course, that Hiccup had never seen dragons before.
He lived in a world full of the creatures, both wild and domesticated.
But what was different about these dragons was their behavior. There were a number of different species, and they were acting as if they were in a hunting party. And dragon species did not generally join together to hunt humans.
Maybe they had done that, once, long ago.
But for as long as the old Vikings could remember, they did not hunt humans.
A wild dragon would eat you, of course, if you happened to cross its path and it was hungry. But there was no organized hunting of humans, as perhaps there might have been way in the past.
Hiccup’s scalp prickled with fear as if he were being climbed all over by black beetles. He strained so hard to hear into that blackness that it was as if his ears were growing outward. And somehow, above the roar of the wind, he could just hear a truly terrifying noise, a savage hiss in Dragonese, but nastier than he had ever heard Dragonese spoken, it was so cold with hatred.
There was something scarily trancelike about the way the words were spat out, so faint he could hardly catch them. But perhaps it was better if he could not hear them at all:
Closer, closer, flew the advancing dragons, heading straight for the cliff where the hammocks perched.
Hiccup craned his neck even farther upward. About sixty feet above him were the hammocks of the other young Warriors of the Tribes of the Archipelago, hammered into the cliff, just like his own. They were a half hour’s climb ahead of Fishlegs and Hiccup, and while Fishlegs’s and Hiccup’s hammocks were made of brown patched blankets, theirs were made of old ships’ sails. The gaudy patterns of these sails, such as red-and-white stripes or blue-and-gold diamonds, made them stick out against the cliff like a flamingo sitting in a bog.
The mysterious dragons were heading straight for them. They seemed to have gone rogue, to be hunting humans.
Hiccup could see what they were now. He recognized them from their wing patterns.
They were a mixture of some of the nastiest types of dragons in the Archipelago: Razorwings and Tonguetwisters and Doldrums and Vampire Ghouldeaths.
I’ve got to warn the others, thought Hiccup. He opened his mouth to shout, but terror seemed to have strangled his vocal cords, like it does in your worst nightmares.
“Squeak,” panted Hiccup faintly, “squeak squeak squeak…”
That wasn’t going to do much good.
And then: “Dragons…” And as an afterthought, “Really nasty ones.”
This wasn’t even waking up Toothless, let alone the young Warriors snoring peacefully, unaware, high above him.
The dragons were horribly near now, flying in close formation—most unnatural behavior for dragons. They were drawing down their legs and stretching out their talons, ready to strike. The Warriors were totally helpless; they’d be killed inside their gaudy cocoons as they slept.
Hiccup leaned over to the small ledge in the cliff where he had stowed his rucksack. Hands shaking, he drew out his bow and an arrow from the quiver.
Perhaps it was lucky that Hiccup was so far away. If he could see what the leader of the dragon pack was doing now… he might have fainted.
For the leader was a Tonguetwister dragon.
Tonguetwister sounds like a name for a sweet, charming dragon. But I am afraid that Tonguetwisters remove the limbs from their victims so that they can no longer run away.
I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Hovering perfectly still next to one of the hammocks, the Tonguetwister slowly opened its mouth, and out flicked its tongue: a tongue thicker than a man’s muscular arm. The forked tips of that tongue were flexible and delicate.
The tongue slid inside one of the hammocks, the one belonging to Hiccup’s unpleasant cousin Snotface Snotlout, and rummaged around as if looking for something.
Hiccup took careful aim and fired the arrow.
Of course, he was aiming at the Tonguetwister.
Hiccup wasn’t that bad a marksman, actually. Not as good as he was at swordfighting, but not bad.
But to do Hiccup justice, it is difficult to fire an arrow from a wobbling hammock. Particularly when you are using a bow and an arrow both bent out of shape—ironically, by Snotlout himself.
The slightly crooked arrow left the bow and spiraled upward, weaving erratically in a drunken fashion. At the last minute, it plunged to the right, missed the dragon entirely, and sank into Snotlout’s left calf.
It wasn’t quite what Hiccup had intended, but it did have the desired effect… sort of.
Snotlout let out a small, muffled scream, as you would, of course, if you had just been shot in the leg by an arrow, and leaped out of the hammock… much to the surprise (and annoyance) of the Tonguetwister, who hadn’t yet gotten hold of one of Snotlout’s limbs.
Of course, in his half-asleep, arrow-ridden state, Snotlout had completely forgotten he was three-quarters of the way up a cliff. Down he plunged, hurtling down that hysterical drop, past the hammocks of his fellow Warriors and past Hiccup himself, who reached out desperately to try to catch him, though Snotlout would have been far too heavy…
And that would have been the end of Snotlout if there had not been a tree growing out of the cliff face not far below Hiccup. The tree broke Snotlout’s fall, and though he carried on downward, he ju-u-ust managed to grab hold of one of the lower bendy branches to save himself.
So there was Snotlout, dangling from the tree, a three-thousand-foot drop below him. He was so surprised that he, too, could not make a sound, and he stared up at Hiccup with round, terrified eyes.
“HELP ME, YOU IDIOT,” mouthed Snotlout gracelessly. Snotlout was not one for being polite, even when he had just been saved from a nasty fate at the tongue of a Tonguetwister and was still depending on the person he was insulting to save his life.
He couldn’t hold on for long, but he was slightly out of Hiccup’s reach.
Hiccup frantically scrabbled around in his hammock, trying to get out one of his climbing ropes so that Snotlout could grab on to it. But even at the best of times, maneuvering inside a hammock is like trying to put your underpants on inside a pillowcase, and in this instance, with the hammock fogged up with Toothless’s smoke, it was like taking part in some bizarre saunalike sweating ceremony.
Back and forth Hiccup struggled and swayed, but he couldn’t find the end of the beastly climbing rope, and his hands were slippery with perspiration. He gave a frantic wriggle like a stranded worm… and accidentally drew his sword instead of pulling out the climbing rope…
With a dreadful ripping sound, the sword cut the old faded-brown hammock right in half.
Now, at last, he could find his voice.
It was an enormous shout, the full, terrified blast of Hiccup’s lungs echoing off the dark walls of the cliff, sending the shout back again and on and up.
A couple of feet away, Fishlegs caught the full blast of the shout and rocketed into wakefulness like an exploding starfish. He very nearly fell out of his hammock as well. Way, way up the cliff, every hammock wobbled and wiggled as its occupant blearily sat up, blurting, “Wossat? Wossgoingon?”
“E-e-e-e-k!” squealed Toothless in alarm, opening his eyes and putting out his wings as he realized he was plummeting toward the ground.
The dragons paused in their attack, hovering for a moment in the cold night air. They adjusted the lights in their yellow eyes (a most extraordinary trick that some dragons possess) from a slight glow to a dazzling glare and turned their heads downward…
And pinpointed Hiccup, swinging on the remains of his hammock, and illuminated him in the dazzling brightness of their many searchlight eyebeams so that he shone in brilliant detail against the darkness of the cliff.
“Uh-oh… WINDWALKER! WAKE UP!!!!” yelled Hiccup, waving his sword around wildly. (He yelled this in Dragonese, for Hiccup was one of the few Vikings, before or since, who could speak this fascinating language.)
“Hoooooonnnnnng… sshuuuuuh…” snored the Windwalker.
The swarm of dragons, eerily still hanging way above Hiccup, hissed with slow, chilling anger. Something in their eyes clicked. It was the little focus lid, a shutter that came down over their eyes and enabled them to see objects very well from an extraordinary distance. They hung there for a moment more without moving.
Only their eyes shifted a little, following the waving of Hiccup’s sword.
And then they folded back their wings and dived.
The Prey Dive.
What a beautiful sight, if Hiccup had only been in the state of mind to appreciate it! It’s a shame that he was hanging by only a thread off the highest cliff in the Archipelago at the time.
The Prey Dive is a glorious feat of aerial acrobatics, in which the dragon goes into free fall with his wings folded back. And to see a swarm of gigantic dragons performing this simultaneously, so vertically and so close to the Hard Way of Angry Mountain that their wings were practically skimming the cliff itself, in the dead of nighttime—well, I can tell you, that should have been a privilege and a pleasure, the kind of sight to see before you die. (And frankly, if you see this kind of sight, the likelihood is you’re going to die pretty soon anyway.)
The lead dragon opened its jaws as the dragons came screaming down at Hiccup, who made a final wild wriggling swing back onto the cliff at the last minute, and the entire swarm of dragons missed him and carried on, unable to stop, in their brilliant dive down the side of the cliff.
Hiccup scrabbled around wildly, desperately trying to get a foothold on the glass-smooth rock face. He could feel his fingers sliding slightly down what was left of the unraveling hammock. He couldn’t hold on much longer… but there was nothing for his feet to grip on to, and he swung out again over the dizzying drop.
Meanwhile, Toothless was bouncing up and down on the Windwalker’s head, desperately trying to get him to wake up. “W-W-Wake up! Wake up! Or Toothless’ll grind your bones into broth!” yelled the little dragon. “Wake up, you lolloping l-l-lazy-bones l-l-loser!”
“Hooooooooooong… ssshuuuuuuh…” The Windwalker’s snores were happier and more content than ever. In his dreams, he was flitting happily from tree to tree, and a dear little butterfly was gently tickling his head with its dear little butterfly wings.
Fishlegs tried to get out of his hammock to help, but his foot got stuck in one of the ropes.
The fiftieth dragon, another Tonguetwister, having screeched past Hiccup at one hundred and fifty miles an hour, did a lightning last-minute breakneck turn, gripping the cliff with the hooks on the ends of its wings.
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant flying skills.
With eyes firmly set on Hiccup, the Tonguetwister rapidly began to haul itself by its wings across the cliff, toward the dangling and seemingly helpless Hiccup.
Toothless had given up bouncing on the Windwalker’s head and was now heaving with all his tiny strength, trying to nudge the happily snoring Windwalker off the ledge in the hope that that would bring him to his senses.
“Oh, don’t go, dear little butterfly,” whispered the Windwalker in his dreams, blowing reproachful, crooning smoke rings. “Stay with me, little fluttery one, and we’ll dance the flower dance together…”
“HICCUP, YOU FOOL!” shouted Snotlout, hanging by his hands onto the tree a couple of feet below. “DO SOMETHING, FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE! I CAN’T HOLD ON MUCH LONGER!”
But Hiccup had problems of his own.
“Aaaaieeeeee!” screeched Hiccup as the Tonguetwister crawled, batlike, ever closer. As it opened its mouth, he could see the dreadful, muscular, hairy tongue lurking sluglike in the depths.
The dragon’s alligator jaws snapped open, and its horrible tongue snaked out and around Hiccup’s sword, dragging Hiccup’s left hand with it, off the hammock shreds…
The dragon shifted its grip a moment, and, shivering with revulsion, Hiccup felt the tongue curling around his whole arm.
Another strand of the fibers broke, leaving him dangling by only the tiniest threads above the drop.
The dragon paused, preparing to twist off Hiccup’s arm that held the sword…
I’ll take a little breather while the dragon pauses, just to recap what had brought Hiccup into this situation in the first place.
It’s always very irritating when you get hurtled into the middle of a story without any explanation as to why the Heroes got there, and how they got there, and what on earth they were doing camping three-quarters of the way up the Hard Way of Angry Mountain in the middle of the winter in the first place.
It was a perfectly crazy idea, surely.
Here is what happened.
Bright and early that morning, the Tribes of the Archipelago had gathered at the foot of Angry Mountain in a great noisy, jostling crowd of tents and sleighs and skis, greeting old friends and enemies with bumps of their massive bellies, hunting dragons wheeling above them in the air, riding dragons getting into dragon fights.
Perched right at the top of Angry Mountain was Flashburn’s School of Swordfighting. The Tribes were traveling there for the annual three-week celebration of feasting, fighting, and festivities that ended on New Year’s Day with a swordfighting competition and the New Year, New Warrior Ceremony, in which youngsters across the Archipelago finally crossed over from childhood into adulthood and became Warriors of their Tribes.
There are two ways to climb Angry Mountain.
There is the Easy Way, a gentle, pleasant incline that you can stroll up quite merrily without even getting out of breath. That is the way the adult Warriors would take, with their sleighs and tents and riding dragons and Driver Dragons and weapons and provisions.
And then there is the Hard Way, a sheer vertical cliff face of rock that takes two days to climb. That is the way the young Warriors-to-Be would take, to prove their worthiness to be admitted into the Tribes.
The Warriors-to-Be were looking up at the gigantic rock face rather dubiously.
They were a motley crew of pimply adolescents, all of them much larger and more muscular than Hiccup and Fishlegs. (Apart from Camicazi, who was a good friend of Hiccup’s. She was a tiny, fierce little Bog-Burglar with a great deal of blonde hair that looked as if she had carelessly combed it with a pitchfork.)
Gobber the Belch, the teacher in charge of the Hooligan Pirate Training Program, was giving the Warriors-to-Be a quick pep talk.
Gobber was a six-and-a-half-foot-tall mountain of a man with lungs like a foghorn and ears like deformed cauliflower. He didn’t have a sensitive side.
“OKAY, Warriors, listen up!” he shouted. “This is a stroll in the park! All you have to do is spend the next two days and a night climbing this sheer vertical cliff face. Once we get to the school, you will be practicing for the swordfighting competition on New Year’s Day. This is your chance to learn and get tips from the greatest swordfighter in the Archipelago, Flashburn himself!”
Ooohs and aaahs from the Warriors-to-Be.
“Oh, I can’t wait to meet Flashburn in real life,” Camicazi said excitedly to Hiccup and Fishlegs. “He’s supposed to be the perfect Hero…”
“Here he co-o-o-omes!” called out Thuggory the Meathead, pointing upward.
A gorgeous Red Tiger dragon, with Flashburn crouched very low on its back, dived down out of nowhere from above. Camicazi let out a “Wow!” and punched the air as the dragon zoomed over their heads, so low that they could feel the wind of its wings.
The dragon swooped so very low that Flashburn leaned over and very cheekily grabbed Stoick the Vast’s helmet off his head before flying upward again.
Stoick the Vast, Hiccup’s father, was built in the traditional Viking mold, with muscles like footballs, a beard like a thunderstorm, and about as many brain cells as would fit in a teeny-tiny teaspoon.
He was not amused.
“Oh, that Flashburn, he hasn’t changed one bit!” snorted Stoick as everybody laughed and the youngsters ooohed and aaahed.
“COME DOWN, YOU SHOW-OFF!” yelled Stoick. “IT’S GOING TO BE NIGHTFALL BY THE TIME WE GET GOING, AT THIS RATE! I don’t know. These Heroes. No consideration…”
Finally, with a graceful, zooming swoop, Flashburn’s Red Tiger landed directly in front of Stoick, and Flashburn did a complete double somersault over the dragon’s head, landed on his feet, and offered Stoick back his helmet with an elegant bow.
“There you are, Stoick, my dear…”
“DON’T CALL ME DEAR!” fumed Stoick, snatching the helmet. “GET ON WITH IT, WHY DON’T YOU?”
Flashburn smiled and sprang onto a nearby rock so that everyone could see him.
Flashburn was an extremely good-looking man with a lot of long, blond hair.
His famous gold swordfighting belt was around his waist, with the captured swords of some of the most famous swordfighters in the Archipelago thrust into it.
“Greetings, old fatsos!” smiled Flashburn good-humoredly. “Why, Mogadon the Meathead, you’ve put on weight; I hardly recognized you. Bertha, I’m not sure that shade of violet really suits you. Madguts the Murderous, you’re losing your hair already…
“Greetings, Warriors-to-Be!” Flashburn ignored the slight rumblings of annoyance from the older Warriors. “I have the great good luck and the extraordinary good fortune to be the great Flashburn himself. You may cheer now.”
The youngsters cheered.
Flashburn seemed to expect it.
He pointed at the vertical cliff face of rock. “This, the Hard Way up Angry Mountain, is the ultimate test. Are you the stuff that a Hero is made of? Or are you a jellyfish in a skirt?
“If you pass this test, and get to MY school, which is, of course, the most brilliant school in the universe, you will be practicing for the swordfighting competition on New Year’s Day, and competing for the swordfighting belts. The green belt is the lowest, then blue, then purple, red, black, and after that, you progress to bronze, silver, and gold, when you have earned the right to call yourself a ‘FlashMaster.’ Of course, we’re not expecting any of you to get that far. There are not many FlashMasters in the Archipelago. You never made FlashMaster level, did you, now, Murderous, my dear?”
Madguts the Murderous gave a furious, strangled grunt. “No finesse,” explained Flashburn kindly. “The Murderous fight like pigs in pajamas.”
Madguts gave a dreadful roar and charged at Flashburn, sword drawn.
Flashburn did not bother to draw one of the many swords thrust into his swordfighting belt. Instead, he reached into the nearest rucksack and took out… a spoon and an apple.
This seemed to enrage Madguts even further.
Madguts lunged forward like an infuriated bull, and Flashburn’s spoon and Madguts’s sword met in a bewildering flurry of metal feints and parries.
To the delight of the cheering Tribesmen, ten seconds later, Madguts found himself flat on his back in the snow with an apple stuck on the end of his sword and a spoon on the end of his nose.
“You see? No finesse. And dead as a dodo in less than ten seconds,” grinned Flashburn, bowing to the applause. “And I wouldn’t laugh too hard; nobody here could have lasted any longer. Thus endeth the first lesson, Warriors-in-Waiting.
“Cheerio,” he cried, springing onto his Red Tiger with a perfect, godlike vault, winking at the women and waving his sword in good-bye. “And good luck! We’ll have the banquet ready when you get there! Remember, there is nothing wrong with a healthy sense of self-respect, especially when you’re as brilliant as I am!”
“He’s so cool, isn’t he?” sighed Camicazi.
“As you said,” purred Stormfly, Camicazi’s beautiful golden hunting dragon, batting her eyelashes, “he is the perfect Hero…”
“He’s n-n-not so perfect,” grumbled Toothless, who was smitten with Stormfly. “Even for a human, he’s got a big nose.”
They had come, at last, to the Parting of the Ways.
With much hearty patting on backs and cheery waves, the adults of the Tribe marched off to go the Easy Way, on their skis and skates and with their Driver Dragons pulling sleighs.
And the Warriors-to-Be began to fasten on their gigantic rucksacks for the long climb up the Hard Way.
“We’ll beat you to the top!” grinned Camicazi, running to join her gang of Bog-Burglars, a terrifying gaggle of female bodybuilders. “Because girls are better than boys and always will be!”
Stoick the Vast bustled up to wish Hiccup good-bye.
“Good luck, Hiccup, my boy! No pressure, but remember: I became a Gold FlashMaster when I was only eighteen, and so I’m expecting great things from you, Hiccup, great things. Signs of leadership and so forth. This is your chance to impress your peer group in the other Tribes!”
“Great,” said Hiccup gloomily. “No pressure, then.”
Stoick stomped off happily, and Old Wrinkly, Hiccup’s grandfather, hobbled forward.
There was an expression of slight horror in Old Wrinkly’s old seashell eyes, a tremble to his ancient limbs.
“I have a dreadful foreboding that terrible danger awaits you at Flashburn’s School of Swordfighting, Hiccup,” muttered Old Wrinkly, holding up a skinny finger. “The world will need a Hero, and it might as well be you. Keep your things in tip-top condition, for they are the King’s things.” Old Wrinkly pointed at Hiccup’s shabby collection of equipment. “And remember, look after your sword, Hiccup, for it is the sword that points the way. Good luck!”
The old man shook Hiccup’s hand as if he were shaking it for the last time, tears in his eyes, and with that, still muttering to himself, he hobbled off to join the elderly and the children, who would return to Berk to keep the home fires burning.
“Great!” said Fishlegs. “That’s great, that is! Terrible danger, my favorite kind… and what was all that weird stuff about your things being the King’s things?”
“I have no idea. The thing about grown-ups,” said Hiccup, trying to squeeze his blanket into his already-bursting-at-the-seams rucksack, “is that they’re always wanting you to be this great Hero and leader. What’s wrong with being NORMAL, for Thor’s sake? What’s wrong with just being SO-SO at stuff? They’re just totally unrealistic…”
“Uh-oh…” said Fishlegs.
For, at that moment, reality was approaching in the form of someone who most definitely did not think Hiccup was a great Hero and leader.
It was Snotface Snotlout, Hiccup’s unpleasant first cousin, a large arrogant boy with the most enormous nostrils you have ever seen, closely followed by his sidekick, Dogsbreath the Duhbrain.
“OKAY, listen up, Hooligans,” grinned Snotlout, addressing the thirteen or so Hooligan Warriors-to-Be. “Hiccup will not be leading this group, because HE is not a leader. I am.”
“But Hiccup is the son of Stoick the Vast,” protested Fishlegs.
“Who cares?” grinned Snotlout, giving Fishlegs a painful kick in the shins, and Hiccup a shove that was so violent, it sent him sprawling onto the ground. “Hiccup is scrawny and weedy and USELESS. He can’t play bashyball to save his life, his dragon is the size of a frog, and we can’t be led by someone who has a friend like you.”
This was not a very kind thing to say, but admittedly, Fishlegs was a little challenged in the Viking department. He was asthmatic, knock-kneed, and nearly blind without his glasses. He was prone to hay fever, eczema, chilblains, and chesty coughs.
He did have gifts, of course. He was good at composing poetry, and he had a nice sarcastic sense of humor. But neither of these skills were particularly prized in the Hooligan Tribe.
Snotlout drew his sword.
“With the Flashcut,” gloated Snotlout, making some lunges at imaginary opponents, “I shall be the first Warrior-in-Training to make it to FlashMaster level. Trust me, I will. As for you, maybe they should create new swordfighting belts for you two. How about yellow belts? Or pretty pink ones? That’d be good for a couple of cowards and their teeny-weeny little weapons.”
“Hur, hur, hur,” snorted Dogsbreath.
“HA HA HA HA!” laughed Warriors-to-Be from some of the other, tougher Tribes—the Visithugs, the Bashem-Oiks, and the Murderous—gathering around them as they sensed some fun was starting.
“Who are these pathetic weeds, Snotlout?” grinned Very Vicious the Visithug, a brute of a boy with a vigorous forest of hair sprouting from his earholes. “Surely they can’t be Hooligans.”
“They pretend to be,” sneered Snotlout.
Snotlout’s eyes went as small and mean as a shark’s.
He lunged at Hiccup’s rucksack, and rip, rip, rip went the Flashcut.
“Oh dear…” cooed Snotlout, holding up Hiccup’s shredded hammock. “My hand slipped… I seem to have caused a tiny little tear in your hammock. How will you make it the Hard Way up Angry Mountain when you don’t have anywhere to sleep? What a shame. You’ll just have to stay awake for the whole night.”
“You big cheater, Snotlout!” said Fishlegs hotly. “You’re just scared that if Hiccup makes it to Flashburn’s School of Swordfighting, he’s going to beat you!”
This really annoyed Snotlout.
The one thing that Hiccup was truly gifted at in the Pirate Training Program was swordfighting. He hadn’t fought Snotlout in a while, but Snotlout wasn’t as confident about beating Hiccup as he would have liked to be, and that made Snotlout really mad.
“Whoops, whoops, whoops!” yelled Snotlout, lunging at Fishlegs’s hammock, too, and ripping that to bits as well. Both he and Dogsbreath then launched themselves at the shabby equipment, kicking it all over the place, and gave Hiccup and Fishlegs themselves a good kicking.
A grinning Very Vicious helped them, and Dogsbreath held down Hiccup while Snotlout removed Hiccup’s sword from his scabbard and held it up for everyone to see—and that made everyone laugh like anything, for Hiccup’s sword, Endeavor, was not very impressive to look at.
“Your mighty sword, Chief Hiccup, or is it a dagger? Silly me, I seem to have bent it!” smiled Snotlout as he smashed the sword on a rock before hurling it as far away as he could.
“Oh dear,” cooed Snotlout, “how will you make Gold FlashMaster now?”
Well, the Hooligans and the Visithugs and the Bashem-Oiks and the Murderous were nearly sick, they thought that was so funny.
“Don’t cwy, lickle ones,” lisped Snotlout, putting on a baby voice before he and Dogsbreath slouched off. “You’ll be better off with an excuse to stay here with the old people and the children…”
“COME ON, EVERYONE, FOLLOW ME!” yelled Snotlout. “See you, LOSERS!”
And the rest of the grinning Warriors-to-Be began to climb the cliff after him, leaving Hiccup and Fishlegs bruised and sore and looking sadly at the wreckage of their belongings.
They were used to being humiliated by Snotlout in front of the other Hooligans, but this was worse, because it was in front of the other Tribes. It did not bode well for the three weeks they were going to spend at Flashburn’s School of Swordfighting.
“You see?” sighed Hiccup gloomily. “The grown-ups have totally forgotten what it’s like to be thirteen and have to deal with someone like Snotlout.”
Hiccup’s sword had landed in a snowdrift some distance away, and it was Toothless who found it (dragons are very good at sniffing out metal). It had indeed gotten a little bent in the process. Hiccup tried to bend it back, but it was still a little askew.
All his belongings had gotten similarly bashed up. There was a large dent in his shield, caused by the big fat foot of Dogsbreath the Duhbrain. The ticking-thing was smashed and ticking wheezily, like it was out of breath. His bow was bent, and most of his arrows were broken.
If these were indeed the King’s things, or whatever Old Wrinkly had been going on about, they were definitely NOT in tip-top condition now.
Excerpted from How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon's Sword by Cressida Cowell Copyright © 2012 by Cressida Cowell. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted August 15, 2013
Posted April 23, 2013
I had friends over and they were doing something while i read the book. I sobbed, it's so sad but so good. - Reviewer Jewels (age:11Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 11, 2013