“These creatures are abominations! Whoever thought of pairing up with the devils should be declared mad and shipped away!”
There were a few murmurs of agreement in the rowdy mob.
Ria’s lip curled. She knew that voice. She pushed her way to the front of the crowd.
“We need to exterminate them!” a stout man with a thick, dirt-brown beard brandished his spear. “They burn our houses! We say they are friends but a sneeze could send our families up in flames!”
A woman standing by Ria shouted and raised her fist in the air.
Ria silently cursed the girl she had tripped over outside the bakery. If she hadn’t been slowed down, she might’ve been able to stop this!
Suddenly, she remembered: The night fury! She looked around, almost panicked. To her relief, she didn’t see any trace of one. It had gotten away.
“We can never work with them! They will only destroy us,” he said, stirring up the crowd even more.
Ria bit her lip. She liked to think of herself as brave, but when it came to her father her courage faltered. She took a deep breath–someone had to stop this. Someone had to be the dragons’ advocate! If no on else would do it, it was her responsibility to keep her father–
“That’s not true!” a boy’s voice shouted. “They’re our friends!”
Ria’s head swiveled towards the source of the complaint. She couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose.
It was that scrawny Hiccup boy and his girlfriend, Astrid. She was relieved to see them, though; they had saved her from having to confront her father.
“Ha!” her father forced a laugh. “What a joke. How can something that can turn us to ashes with a single breath ever be our friend?”
Shouts of approval came from the crowd, but they were more hesitant and quieter this time.
“Please,” Hiccup appealed to the crowd this time, “you saw what they’ll do for us when we fought the Green Death at the Dragons’ Den. If they wanted to hurt us, they would’ve by now!”
A moment too late, Hiccup realized his mistake.
“He means after we befriended them,” Astrid tried to correct him. “They haven’t hurt us since we’ve stopped hurting them!”
But it was too late; whispers were spreading through the crowd. Realizing that he had gained support, Ria’s father shoved Hiccup and Astrid aside.
“We allowed ourselves to be lead by children–remember how many ships we lost that day?”
Nodding heads created waves in the sea of people.
“Remember all the weaponry we lost?”
Another wave spread through the crowd.
“Remember the casualties?” with this statement, the dark-bearded man’s voice grew softer. He took off his horned helmet and placed it over his heart.
Everyone in the crowd bowed their heads in respect. Ria herself did the same; she had lost an uncle.
“That was all dragon’s doing! And now we’ve let them into our village–into our homes!” he raised his spear. “They must be exterminated if we are to live!”
“That’s not true!” Hiccup cried, trying to calm the frenzied crowd. “Please, remember how they saved us! How they carried us home, how they help us hunt now–we can’t overlook what’s happening now because of something in the past!”
The large man snorted, “Only a fool overlooks the past. See? We followed this fool–we followed this boy–in accepting the dragons. What does he know? He’s been locked in a blacksmith shop for half his life! He only began dragon training last year! He’s an ignorant, demon-lover with no concern for what happens to us!”
“Oh, please!” Astrid cried, her voice dripping with frustration and anger, “like he didn’t make sacrifices. He,” she pointed emphatically at Hiccup, “flew up alone to fight the Green Death. He lost his leg! His leg! He almost died. It was his dragon that saved him! “
The crowd looked at each other doubtfully; Astrid had a very valid point. The man realized he was beginning to fall out of favor again.
“Gobber lost a leg and an arm,” the man countered. “He lost them fighting dragons, as did your beloved boy-friend.“
Ria smiled grimly. It was so like her father to act like a child and throw meaningless taunts at his opponents. His strategy was effective, though; Astrid’s ears flushed and she looked away, flustered.
However, this had a negative reaction from the crowd; Ria was relieved to see that she wasn’t the only one who saw her father’s statement as juvenile.
“Even the dragon’s defender, this Hiccup,” he said Hiccup’s name as if it were something dirty, “lost a limb to his friends. Some friendship that is!”
The crowd was quieter than ever. The man was beginning to lose their support. His name calling was taking its toll.
Suddenly, a rock flew through the air. “Leave them alone!” cried a lone voice.
Another rock whizzed towards the man’s face. He caught it in the palm of his hand and held it between his thumb and forefinger to examine it.
“What is this?” he asked, looking up, his face contorted with rage. He glared over at Hiccup and Astrid. “Did you throw this?”
They shook their heads. Ria glanced to her right; a girl with bushy, blonde hair had a handful of rocks. She was frowning gravely. Ria instinctively knew she was the culprit.
Hiccup tried to take advantage of the gap in chaotic noise to press his point, “You just don’t understand,” he said gently to Ria’s father, assuring him that he wasn’t undermining his intelligence, “it’s like owning any pet. The same way you clear pastures for sheep to graze because you know they need to eat to live, you have to create a safe environment to raise your dragon–maybe it’s fireproof, or maybe it’s just free of allergens, so they don’t sneeze. But, either way, pets take work. Pets take time. Pets take a caring owner.”
The crowd was beginning to quiet now. Now that the initial adrenaline rush had faded, they were beginning to feel quite bad about their allegiance to the dark-bearded man.
“And who said we had to raise dragons in houses?” another booming voice added, calling over the crowd.
The sea of people turned to look, then parted to let their beloved and revered leader through. Ria craned her neck, but still couldn’t see who it was.
“Just let them live in the wild and visit them when you can,” he recommended. “Then you have the friendship, but you don’t have to worry about your house catching fire!”
A soft chuckle rose from the crowd, which was beginning to disperse.
“Stoick,” the dark-bearded man snarled.
“Steinhart,” Stoick replied coldly. “What do you mean by all of this? Do you want to split this village in two?”
“I want the dragons gone,” hissed Steinhart. “They’re a danger to everyone! They’re no good, rotten–”
“I won’t have you speaking that way about dragons,” Stoick said, straightening. “A dragon saved my life once–my son’s dragon. I saw the good intentions in its eyes. But, another thing,” Stoick’s voice became angry, “don’t you ever talk about my son that way again.”
Steinhart said nothing, but pursed his lips in agitation.
“Do you hear me, Steinhart?” asked Stoick, stepping forward menacingly. “Never do that again.”
“Fine,” Steinhart said with a sneer. He marched away from Stoick and put his arm around Ria. “Come along, Ria,” his voice was darkened by anger. “Don’t let these men taint your brilliant mind.”
Ria followed hesitantly. Although she sided with her father in public, she really did like dragons. She glanced back over her shoulder and noticed the blonde girl with the bushy hair was still loitering around, kicking at stones on the ground.
“Ria,” her father’s voice was dangerously impatient. “Come along.“
Bush Berry juggled the stones she held in her palm, tossing them casually from hand to hand.
She was waiting for Stoick to leave. It wasn’t that she had something offensive to say or anything, she just didn’t want to admit her actions–not around someone as important as Stoick!
After conversing briefly with Hiccup and Astrid, Stoick walked away, presumably to go back to the town hall. Although the disturbance had been calmed, the fact that a riot had even started was a bad sign.
Bush Berry walked up to Astrid and Hiccup, who were discussing something fearfully in hushed tones. Astrid noticed her approach and looked distrustfully at her, her eyes narrowed. Hiccup followed her gaze and noticed the rocks in Bush Berry’s hands.
“Are–are you,” he asked, pointed at the rocks, “are you the one who threw that rock at him?”
Bush Berry nodded proudly.
“I don’t know if that was such a great idea,” he said, wincing, “but thanks for the support!”
Astrid nodded, “He was raging mad. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears!” a smile crept over her face. “But I agree with Hiccup; a mad Steinhart is even worse than regular Steinhart.”
Suddenly, Bush Berry tossed her rocks aside, “I’m starving!” she declared loudly. “I know a place that has really good food.” She stepped away a few paces, then turned back. “Follow me!”
Astrid shot an inquisitive glance at Hiccup, who shrugged and followed Bush Berry.
“I’m Bush Berry, by the way,” she said. “But you can call me Berry, all my friends to,” she added as they walked. “I think we’re almost there.”
They were hit by a sudden, acrid wall of smoke. Astrid coughed violently, “You two go on ahead,” she said. “I know that Snotlout, Fishlegs, and the twins were in charge of the water cart today. I probably ought to make sure–” she coughed again–”they’ve got everything under control.”
“Right-o!” Berry called, without turning around. “Aha, see that place, right up ahead? That’s our next stop!”
Astrid stared in horror at the charred, skeletal frame that stood in front of her. It was all that was left of the Barbershop.
“Did we do a good job?” asked Snotlout, eager for approval. “I did most of the work, you know.”
Astrid glanced at Lola, who wiped her forehead and rolled her eyes.
“Don’t be a bozo,” Tuffnut said. “Everyone knows I did most of the work.”
“It was clearly me!” Ruffnut crossed her arms.
“No it wasn’t–it couldn’t have been! I’m stronger!” Tuffnut argued.
“Oh, yeah?” Ruffnut challenged.
“Both of you, just be quiet!” Lola cried, rubbing her forehead. She already had a pounding headache from all of the smoke.
“Take a break,” Astrid patted her on the shoulder. “Tell your mentor what happened. I’ll take care of these…” her voice trailed off as she tried to find an inoffensive word to describe her fellow classmates.
“Thanks, Astrid!” Lola heaved an exhausted sigh. “And good luck.”
“Hah,” Astrid said dryly. “You’re not kidding.”
“Let me go–hey!” Tuffnut cried. Astrid turned and saw Ruffnut had him in a headlock.
Astrid ignored the twins and began working on returning the water cart to its station.
“Hey, babe, let me do that,” Snotlout said, nudging her out of the way and pushing the cart up the hill. Astrid watched, amused, as he made a snail’s progress, panting and sweating the whole time.
“Let me give you a hand with that!” Fishlegs cried, rushing to help Snotlout.
“Okay, fine,” Snotlout said, trying to make it seem like he didn’t need the help. “If you really want to.”
Astrid felt a bit better knowing that Fishlegs was on the job, and because she knew there was absolutely nothing she could do to stop Ruffnut and Tuffnut from squabbling, she jogged out to the main road, trying to catch up with Hiccup and Berry.
The instant she entered the bakery, Berry dropped the act. “Things are getting worse. You’ve got to be careful.”
“What?” Hiccup asked, rather taken by surprise.
“Can we get anything for you?” asked the shopkeeper, coming to the counter. She brushed her wavy, brown hair away from her eyes.
“Can we have one of your sweetbread loaves?” asked Berry. “Those are my favorite!”
“Berry!” exclaimed the shopkeeper. “Oh, I didn’t see you there! It’s nice to see you again!”
“You, too, Kel!” Berry smiled fondly.
“Your food’s on us,” Kel said, shoving her money pouch back into its pocket on her belt.
“No–we couldn’t impose like that–” Berry said.
“Please, Berry!” laughed Kel. “You bring us herbs for our bread–for free! It would almost be a crime for us to charge you.”
A new face Berry didn’t recognize appeared in the ordering window. “Who’s Berry?” she asked.
“Who’re you?” Berry asked in return.
“This is Runa,” Kel said, “she’s my new apprentice.”
Berry stared, “Oh! Are you the one that messed up the saddle?”
Runa looked at the counter ashamedly and said nothing.
“I’m sorry–that came out wrong, I–”
Hiccup came to Berry’s rescue, “Cheer up, Runa! There’s nothing wrong with messing up a saddle. It took me at least four times to get a simple, comfortable saddle, and twice as many different designs until I found one that worked for me! Saddle-making is a trial-and-error process; you can hardly be blamed for that.”
While Runa didn’t say anything, she nodded and looked much happier.
“They want a sweetbread loaf,” Kel said.
Runa nodded and stepped out of sight.
Kel smiled fondly, “I have to admit, I’m rather glad they kicked her out of saddle-making. She’s a superb baker! Her bread flies out of here faster than a night fury–” Kel stopped short– “no offense to Toothless, of course,” she added hastily.
“Oh, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” Hiccup waved his hand dismissively. “He’d be honored to be compared to your bread!”
Kel blushed and giggled.
The door swung open and a scruffy-looking redheaded girl looked around. “Oh, Hiccup!” she exclaimed. “There you are!”
“Scratch!” Hiccup exclaimed, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry, Astrid just looked up, and you were gone–”
Scratch shook her head, “No, I’m sorry. I left without telling you. You know Stumpknuckle–he was at the riot. If he’d seen the three of us…” her voice trailed off ominously.
Kel stared, confused. Berry cleared her throat uncomfortably.
“Oh, sorry!” Scratch scratched the back of her head and winced. “I’m Scratch.”
“I’m Bush Berry, but you can call me Berry,” Berry said, “and that’s Kel,” she pointed to Kel, “and Runa’s in the back room.”
“It’s nice to meet you!” Kel said politely. She couldn’t help but notice the ragged state of Scratch’s clothes, which were covered in what looked like sawdust. Something struck her as familiar about this girl, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“Scratch! There you are!” called someone from outside. “Hiccup and I were afraid you’d gotten trampled or something!”
“No, I just had work to do for Stumpknuckle,” Scratch said, stepping aside to let the newcomer step inside.
Berry realized it was Astrid.
“Are all of you in favor of dragon friendship?” she asked suddenly.
Hiccup, Astrid, and Scratch exchanged glances.
“Of course!” Hiccup spoke for all of them.
Berry raised her eyebrows at Kel. “I–I don’t know,” Kel said meekly. “The big ones are kind of scary.”
Berry rolled her eyes, “I know you, Kel; even if you didn’t like the Terrible Terrors you’d still keep our meetings a secret. I was wondering about your apprentice–”
Kel bit her thumbnail uncertainly. “Asking her will be kind of suspicious, don’t you think?” she whispered.
“I love Dragons!” Runa exclaimed, running into view, much happier than she had been earlier. “Especially the little ones–oh, and Gronckles! They’re so cute!” she stopped herself. “Who’s asking?”
Berry nodded and sat back down at her table. “Then our meeting’ll start now,” she looked up at Astrid and Scratch. “You may want to have a seat.”
End of Chapter 2
I’m sorry if you don’t like how I portrayed your character! ^^” If you have any requests, complaints, or the like, feel free to share them!
I do not own How to Train Your Dragon, any of the dragons from How to Train Your Dragon, or any of the characters from How to Train Your Dragon, nor do I own any other third party material in this post.