“Long live the chief! Long live the chief!”
That night, no doubt, it was to celebrate. After the defeat of Drago and his army of enslaved dragons, there were two new chiefs on Mema Island. Toothless, who ran around surrounded by his fellow dragons. And Hiccup Horrendous Haddock, the third of his name… who at the age of twenty was given, almost unwittingly, the responsibility of leading the village that had seen him grow up.
Moving his horn reluctantly, eyes fixed on the clear alcoholic liquid that swirled inside him with an almost hypnotic movement, the only son of the late Stoic, nicknamed “the Vast”, meditated in silence; while the music and the crackling of the bonfires created an almost magical atmosphere around him.
It was no secret that his father had wanted to pass on the baton even when he was alive, not even a week ago. And Hiccup, stubborn by nature like any Hairy Punk in his tribe, had not wanted to hear it. He had fled. He ran like a rabbit in the presence of the fox and hid far away, assuming that his fate would never find him.
“Hey, are you okay?”
Hiccup looked up and forced a smile when he saw his fiancée arrive, but he did not answer and kept his eyes fixed on the bonfire that rose against the black night. She tilted her head, intrigued, before shaking her braided hair in a resigned gesture and sitting beside him.
“Hiccup…”, she insisted, making him look directly at her. Astrid ran a loving finger down his chin. “Hey, come on. Cheer up. Look around you!” She pointed at him with one arm as he twisted and turned on the spot, reluctantly. “You’re the new head of Berk, Hiccup. And your people are proud of you.”
The young man gulped, not convinced at all.
“My father is the one who should be here,” he muttered, hoarse. Without meaning to, he felt the ash on his forehead like red-hot blight, as if it were something that shouldn’t be there; he couldn’t help it. “This is…”
“Hey, Hiccup. Look at me,” Astrid moved him again without violence. “You belong here, okay? No, listen,” she urged him as he tried to pull away again, holding his chin firmly. “Forget everything you’ve been told so far. Your father, your neighbors, even us when we were younger,” Astrid lowered her fingers, making sure she had his full attention, before pulling her hair out of her face with some hesitation. “I know we’ve never been fair to you, but… Think about it! You,” she placed a hand on his shoulder pad, with the Toothless head drawn on it, which the boy always looked so proud of, “have changed us. You have made Mema Island grow,” his fiancée smiled sadly. “We trust you.”
Hiccup noticed an involuntary lump ascending in his throat.
“I miss him, you know?” He gasped unwillingly, wanting to hold back a sob without succeeding. He hadn’t cried since Stoic’s funeral, but his memory was like a spear tearing his soul apart permanently, refusing to be extracted. “He was… the best chief I could conceive of.”
Astrid tenderly raised her arms to embrace him and rested her head in the hollow of his shoulder. Hiccup closed his eyes and dropped his wet cheek on her golden hair.
“Hey, we can all make mistakes at some point,” said the girl gently. And didn’t you often argue because you had different ideas and sometimes you were right and he was wrong?” After a few seconds, Hiccup nodded halfheartedly, unsure about what Astrid wanted to say. “Exactly,” she continued, looking up a few inches at him. “Being a chief is like everything else in this life, Hiccup. You’ll make better or worse decisions because it’s what you think is right. But you also have us,” she said sweetly. “Didn’t you ask me years ago to always tell you what I thought?” He smiled back tenderly at the moment, and Astrid followed suit before wiping his eyes with the back of her hand and kissing him softly. “And do you think I will stop, even if you are the chief?”
“You accepted the possibility of marrying me. Who knows!” He joked.
Astrid chanted it quietly, shaking her head lightly before plunging her blue irises back into his green.
“I would never regret that decision,” she whispered. “I hope you know that.”
Hiccup shook with love when he heard that.
“I know. And I’ll always be glad of it.”
Slowly, their lips joined again and they were kissing for several minutes, sheltered in the half-darkness; unwillingly rediscovering that it had been a long time since they had shared an instant like that.
At least, until someone passed by waving his mead horn, drunk as a skunk, and almost spilled half the contents over their heads. Surprised and amused at the same time, they saw that it was, almost unrecognizable, Snoutlout, from the jumps and pirouettes he made to the rhythm of the music.
Astrid and Hiccup looked at each other:
“Let’s go home,” she said.
He nodded and they both got up to leave, but not before saying goodbye to those closest to them who were still able to reason, like Valka or Fishlegs. Some of the others, including the twins or Gobbler, however, saw them leave and chanted the last one: “Long live the chief!”
Gothi simply sent them a respectful nod as she laid out a bunch of flowers as a sign of goodwill for the future liaison, which would not be far from that celebration. Many had thought during the banquet that perhaps it was a good option, now that Hiccup was Berk’s chief, that he should not delay marrying Astrid any longer; for now, the two agreed.
The stairway up to the chief’s house was dark, barely lit by a shy moonbeam. Hiccup stopped at the base of it, gazing leisurely at the painted dragons, the gabled roof…The structure where he had lived since he could remember and which now seemed almost a strange place to him. Astrid took him by the arm; showing a grimace of peace on her beautiful round face which urged him, after a few seconds of hesitation, to put the first foot on the lowest step. Slowly the two of them approached the closed door; Hiccup pressed his lips as an image of his father unwittingly slamming the wooden blade open and laughing out loud passed over his head.
He stopped and bowed his chin, his breath coming in and out. His fiancée held him silently, holding his chest with one hand and resting the opposite hand on his back. When he recovered, Hiccup took a deep breath, raised his head, straightened his spine and focused decisively on the door.
You’re the chief, he repeated to himself several times. This is what you are. Embrace it.
If Astrid had assumed it, why didn’t he?
When they reached the top of the staircase, Astrid was the first to put her hand forward to push the wood; but Hiccup gently pushed her fingers away to do it himself. Suddenly, without knowing why, he felt that this was his responsibility. The crying had to stop. As they entered the darkened hall, empty and cold from the lack of a fire, the betrothed stopped, closing the door behind them and looking around reverently.
What now? Hiccup wondered.
What was he supposed to do? Fortunately, Astrid was much more resolute than he was, and pragmatically, she pointed him out:
“Go upstairs and rest, Hiccup. I’ll take care of everything.”
The boy almost looked at her like he was seeing her for the first time. His head suddenly spun like a tidal wave and nothing seemed real about his surroundings.
The young woman put a hand to his lips.
“You’ve had a lot of pressure on your shoulders these last two days, and being a chief, it’s not something that’s going to disappear by magic,” she argued, convinced. “So go to bed, okay?” She stroked his cheek as she saw his indecision. “I’ll be here if you need me.”
At that moment Hiccup, in a fit of extreme vulnerability, pulled her away and embraced her with all his strength.
“Don’t go,” he pleaded in her ear. “Okay?”
Astrid smiled, parted, and kissed him gently.
“Never,” she said, his face between his fingers. “You’re my fiancé, remember?” She winked at him before turning to the fire and starting to light it. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
Hiccup, without wanting to, smiled too.
“Night, my love. Try to get some rest.”
Almost an hour later, when Astrid had lit the central brazier and Valka had just arrived for bed, the lower floor being given to her – she didn’t want to use Stoic’s bed, but she assured Astrid that she would be fine on a few woollen blankets until they found another solution; that she had slept in worse places – the young woman, after a millisecond of doubt, went upstairs to see how Hiccup was. To her relief he was found curled up under the blankets and seemed to be asleep. Stormfly and Toothless had made room for each other on the large stone at the other end of the room.
Unable to help herself, Astrid lay down with her love on the narrow cot and put her arm around it. When he felt her he seemed to be startled and turned, but as soon as he saw that it was Astrid he closed his eyes again with a groan and rested his head on his chest. The young woman stroked his frizzy hair gently, rhythmically, until she noticed that his breathing was matching hers. And so, cradled by the starry sky that filtered through the dragonfly, the future lords of Berk fell into sleep. The next day a new chapter of Berk should begin. And they would… But always together. Until the end.
Story set in the universe of “How to Train Your Dragon” during the second film of the saga.