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All in Your Head

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  “Yep, a zippleback saddle coming right up!” shouted Hiccup to the Viking outside. Rushing through the drafting of a saddle, he sketched an outline, occasionally glancing at the actual zippleback outside the forge, and showed the pattern to his customer. With a grunt of approval, the man stomped away, barely catching the call of “come back in two weeks!” sent after him.

  Hiccup collapsed against the forge. Times like these were when he truly appreciated all his father had done. How could he be the chief; how could he ever fill the huge hole Stoick the Vast had left behind? Whenever he thought about it, he ended up feeling completely overwhelmed. “I think I’ll just go flying to relax,” he thought. Chief duties were seemingly unending, but he did try to go flying with Toothless every day. After all, it was his fault that the night fury had ever needed his help to fly, though Toothless was capable of solo flying now.

  Sneaking out the back door, as soon as Hiccup was out of Gobber’s earshot and out of sight of the seemingly endless line of Vikings waiting to give orders, he broke into a run. Gobber would just have to make do without him for the afternoon. Hiccup braked to give a piercing whistle, and a shadow on the grass grew darker. With a lurch, he’d been grabbed by the back of his tunic by aforementioned dragon, and all that was left was tall grass gently swaying in the resulting draft.

  “Toothless! What are you do-Aaaahh!” Hiccup shouted as the dragon tossed him in the air, only to fall neatly onto his saddle. Catching his breath, he groaned, “Don’t DO that! I nearly had a heart attack…Eargh what am I doing? Okay let me start over. Hey bud! I haven’t seen you since this morning, what’ve you been up to?” Toothless made a series of gulping, gurgling, satisfied sounds. Toothless never actually talked back, but Hiccup was an expert at reading the dragon’s little body movements. He just knew that his best friend could understand Viking. Sometimes it seemed like he was on the edge of understanding exactly what Toothless was saying, but complete understanding always seemed to elude him. Hiccup patted his dragon on the neck, and wrenched the control handles on Toothless’s saddle forward. The dragon was happy to be able to fly by himself, but the pair of them was ten times more unified when Hiccup did the steering. Plus, Toothless seemed to enjoy flying with Hiccup much more than flying on his own, if his refusal to use the automatic tail was anything to go by.

  Throwing his arms out, Hiccup whooped as the pair soared and dove, corkscrewing towards the ocean before snapping upwards. This was his favorite part of every day. It was only when he was flying with Toothless that Hiccup felt whole, like he didn’t need his left leg, like dragon master and dragon were one being. His entire body vibrated with joy, and Hiccup impulsively unlocked his leg from the harness, locking the control handles down once again so Toothless could fly independently. “Ok Toothless, ready?”

  Toothless stiffened. Hiccup knew that his solo gliding still made his dragon nervous, even after tens of successful maneuvers. “I got this, bud! How many times have we done this, a hundred? And I’m not dead yet, so stop worrying, you big baby.” One of Toothless’s ears came out of nowhere and whacked Hiccup on the side of his head.

  “Yeah yeah fine I’ll put the helmet on.” Shoving his black helmet over his unruly hair, Hiccup then stood up on the saddle, turned, and ran down Toothless’s back. As he reached the tail, he leaped from his dragon, and for a second his forward momentum carried him forward. Then gravity took over and Hiccup began to fall. Quickly, he slid his arms into loops and snapped his “wings” open, gliding gracefully across the sky. “YeAAAH! No need to be worried bud, what could go wro-“ Suddenly the air currents shifted, and Hiccup abruptly dropped ten feet. “Wha-aaaaH” Thinking fast, he yelled, “Toothless!” Another drop- “Come on bud, we gotta get- hoooome!”

  Toothless dove, and caught his rider just as another patch of turbulence hit. “Ooof” winced Hiccup as he slammed into his saddle. The temperature dropped suddenly, and Hiccup felt his ears pop. He knew what this meant- a massive storm was headed straight towards them. Fun and games were over, things were about to get hairy.

  Looking ahead, Hiccup could see a mountain of slate grey clouds towering miles into the sky.  There was no way he and Toothless could avoid it.  They’d have to land before it hit.  Hiccup twisted around, flipping open his compass to try to figure out what direction Berk was, and had barely glimpsed what looked like land on the horizon when the next second dragon and rider were buffeted to one side.  He felt a twinge in his neck, but there was no time to do a self-evaluation. If they didn’t find somewhere to land soon, Toothless and Hiccup would be driven towards the ocean and possibly drown. Uneven air currents pushed them around and Hiccup could barely hear himself when he shouted, “Come on Toothless!” His breath was practically snatched out of his chest, and he had no idea if his dragon had heard him.

  But Toothless didn’t need to be told to go.  He whipped around before Hiccup was finished speaking, and started flying as fast as he could towards Berk.  As the atmosphere became more and more turbulent, Hiccup urged Toothless lower towards the ocean with the faint hope that the air would be calmer at a lower altitude. He didn’t glance behind him, but he could see the ocean getting darker below him.  And then the skies opened.  Sheets of rain blew across the sea, smacking the pair down as they struggled towards land.

  “This is it. We are going to die,” thought both dragon and rider.  Hiccup could barely see ten feet in front of them, when suddenly the cliffs of Berk rose up in front of them. 

  Toothless was desperately searching for somewhere to take shelter, and had all but blocked out Hiccup’s voice.  He needed to focus on his echolocation, which was difficult in the rain. Finding something, he struggled against the torrential downpour to get higher on the cliffs. Aiming towards a narrow cleft in the cliff face, he hoped that Hiccup was holding on to something. Then the dragon shot through the crack.

  Hiccup hadn’t noticed that they had reached land until Toothless suddenly flew up and forward.  As a result, he was not low on Toothless’s back as the dragon expected, but was sitting straight, head bent to shield one wrist from the rain, desperately trying to read his compass. There was suddenly a dark wall, and then searing pain where his shoulder met his neck as the rock face left a long abrasion on the side of his neck.  Doubling over in pain, but tightly clenching the saddle, Hiccup barely noticed when Toothless landed under an overhang.   Shivering with cold and drenched, he peeled his fingers one at a time off the saddle, where they’d been locked in an iron grip.  He didn’t realize how much he’d been relying on one hand to stay upright until he sat up fully and his vision filled with spots.  Hiccup reached down and clumsily disengaged his prosthetic leg from the saddle. His fingers wouldn’t do what…he wanted what he couldn’t think…Hiccup slid off Toothless, unconscious.