Drone flights through the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway
Μy last trip to Norway during February, 2017. The Lofoten Archipelago is spread on the northwest side of Norway, very close to the borders of the Arctic Circle. It is a cluster of small fishing villages and is often called “the Foot of the lynx” because of its shape. The islands are full of legends, maybe because of their natural beauty and their mysterious landscapes, or maybe because there the Sun either never rises or never sets. The only thing you can hear is the thousand voices of birds, the wind and the sound of the sea. That combination of the landscape which comes into view every morning and the sounds of nature is a priceless experience that fills you with energy and inspiration for the whole day, no matter what you have to face.
So @graciekeeper99 requested fics about Astrid feeling guilty about provoking Drago to attack Berk. I wrote this right after HTTYD2 came out in 2014. Its not exactly what the prompt asks for, but I figured it is close.
Sorry, posted on mobile so I can’t enter a “read more” bracket.
After the initial celebration of Hiccup’s ascension to the position of chief, the Berkians began to immediately work on rebuilding their ice-incased village. The task proved a lot more dismal and tragic than they expected.
Many did not survive the Bewilderbeast’s overwhelming attacks and those who did lost the comfort of home and safety. The spikes of ice had consumed whole houses, obliterating them to mere splinters as well as all their belongings inside. Months of food rations were destroyed and family heirlooms were tarnished into scrap. The years of hard work that went into building the dragon stables, grooming stations, and feeding basins had all gone to waste, merely pieces of debris trapped in frozen, sea-green towers.
The clean-up took a turn for the worst when the dragons began thawing and melting the ice.
They started in the village square, where the Bewilderbeast had struck first and hardest. At first, the ice appeared to have shadowy shapes deep inside, but as more layers melted, the clearer the shapes became.
The younger children were promptly sent away to the still-standing dragon academy once the adults realized what they began to unearth. Not everyone had been able to escape the behemoth’s icy breath, especially when the square had been so packed together with people when Drago ordered his Alpha to attack.
Two dozen, maybe even more, were how many they found in the ice towers in the town square alone. All plans to rebuild halted immediately. Finding survivors became the top priority. With the help of hundreds more dragons in their midst, the Berkians tried to melt all the ice they could in places where people would have inhabited, would have been when the Bewilderbeast attacked. By sundown, they had only accomplished half of their goal, but luckily only found a few more victims to add to their losses.
As the fading sun set the clouds ablaze, the village rounded up all the boats they had left to prepare the victims’ send offs. The fractured docks could only withstand so much weight, leaving the mourning families to ignite the funeral ships while the rest of the villagers watched from the cliff side to pay their respects. The amount of fires set upon the ocean that night kept Berk bathed in light several hours after darkness finally descended.
It took Hiccup until nearly midnight to give his condolences to the suffering families and friends. This first act as chief wore him down with every visit he made. He kept his lean stature straight, his jaw clenched, but his physical composure could not quell the parasite of his own loss from eating away at his heart. Eyes burning from nearly two days without sleep and mind numbed from all the tragedy he witnessed, the dragon rider trudged his way up to his home.
Toothless remained at his side the entire day, not only to instill his new presence as the alpha of Berk’s dragons, but also due to a strong sense of responsibility toward his best friend. Although forgiven, the Night Fury still felt he owed Hiccup the world for what he had done the day before. The guilt only intensified in his gut the more he watched his home and rider suffer.
The chief’s house remained fairly untouched by the battle due to its distance from the rest of the village. Hiccup had been prepared to offer his home to homeless families, but Gobber insisted the Great Hall would suit them just fine. No one else objected, wanting to honor their late chief by leaving his personal belongings untouched.
In a way, the lack of damage the house recieved felt more like a curse than a benefit to Hiccup. He would have to sort through everything and make the home his own.
Sighing heavily, the new chief gingerly opened his front door before scuffling inside. Toothless sauntered toward the stairs, already bidding his rider goodnight with a low rumble. Hiccup paid him no mind, though and kept his head down, avoiding the sight of his now empty home.
Yet, it seemed too bright and warm to be empty.
Glancing up, Hiccup found a silhouetted figure sitting on the bench in front of the burning hearth. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he recognized the golden hair and crimson tunic of his girlfriend, sitting placidly in front of the fire she most likely created. Her fur hood and metal pauldrons lied on the dining table behind her.
Hiccup barely remembered inviting Astrid to stay the night since her home had been one of the worst hit by the Bewilderbeast. She hadn’t responded at the time, just maintained a stoic gaze upon what was left of her home before she stiffly went to work.
The same gaze settled upon her face as she stared at the gentle flames before her. Astrid had yet to acknowledge Hiccup, seemingly lost in her own world.
Forgetting what he planned to do once he got home, the chief slowly made his way over to his girlfriend. He undid the straps of his leather gauntlets and set them down next to Astrid’s armor as he stepped up to the bench.
“You didn’t have to wait up for me.” Hiccup started, his voice unnaturally rough from the constant clenching his throat did throughout the day.
“I wanted to.” She answered just as roughly. “Besides, I couldn’t sleep.”
Hiccup ran his fingers along her hair for a moment before stepping over the bench and sitting on the floor in front of her. Astrid opened her legs a bit so he could settle between them and rest his back against the bench and his head on her thigh. She immediately began threading her fingers through his sweat matted, but soft auburn locks.
For a long time, the couple just sat there, occupied with their own thoughts. Astrid continued to massage Hiccup’s scalp languidly, causing drowsiness to start seizing him. He closed his eyes and tried to focus solely on the soothing, delicate fingers calming his nerves, relaxing his tight muscles.
Then, a hand slid to his forehead. A finger lightly began to trace a pattern along his skin, a small semi-circle, then a line. Several times Astrid redrew the image underneath his bangs and Hiccup struggled to make sense of it with his drowsy mind. The lines of the pattern felt familiar…
His nerves and muscles abruptly tightened again. He had completely forgotten about the symbol written in ash on his forehead. So much had happened since Gothi bestowed upon him the chiefdom of Berk earlier that morning. The ash probably still lingered on his skin since he forgot to wash it off, though it had probably smeared onto Astrid’s finger tip by now.
The silence of the room suddenly felt stifling instead of tranquil to Hiccup. His mind began reflecting on the day, all the destruction, the tears, the fire…he felt his throat clench again. He sat up slightly, his body irritated by stress.
“I don’t think I can do this.” The chief muttered.
“You’ve already proven you can today.”
Astrid’s response was so quick and certain, Hiccup assumed she had been waiting for this conversation all day. She didn’t stay awake because she couldn’t sleep, but because she knew he would need her. Gratefulness and guilt began to surge violently in his chest.
“I couldn’t do anything for those people, Astrid. I couldn’t do anything for their families. ‘A chief protects his own,’ yet I couldn’t protect them.”
“You can’t save everyone, Hiccup.” Astrid sighed, still staring at the fire. “You did the best you could by honoring their sacrifices and - ”
“Unnecessary sacrifices.” Hiccup griped, his guilt beginning to drown him, “If I had just listened to my dad, none of this would have happened. Berk would have been safe. He wouldn’t be…”
“That’s not true…” Astrid disagreed softly.
“It is!” Hiccup turned his head toward her, his brow furrowed as his arms flailed about. “How could it not be? I tried to reason with a madman and, in the process, put Toothless in danger. I don’t blame him for what he was forced to do because I was stupid enough to get him into that situation. Then that gave Drago the opening to attack here.”
Hiccup gritted his teeth but found no strength to move from his spot on the floor. He took a deep breath before his body deflated in defeat, regret leaking from his essence. He bowed his head, Astrid’s fingers slipping to the nape of his neck.
“I did this. I caused all this destruction and pain. I don’t deserve to rule these people.” Hiccup admitted with a hiss, his eyes beginning to burn.
Astrid remained silent for a long moment and Hiccup began to wonder when she would get up and leave him to deal with his issues alone. He wouldn’t blame her. He felt disgusted in himself for failing his people so horribly.
He nearly jumped when he felt her fingers run along his neck gently.
“It’s not your fault, Hiccup.”
The chief froze at that comment. His mouth opened and closed, searching for words, but confusion disabled his voice. Hiccup turned around fully to glance at his girlfriend with a bewildered expression.
Astrid still did not meet his gaze. The flames in the hearth danced across her eyes, but her blue irises appeared dull and distant. Guilt marred her own features, her mouth frowning deeply while her soft skin appeared several shades paler. She suddenly seemed so tired of the world and its madness.
“What are you talking about?” Hiccup rasped.
“If it wasn’t for me, none of this would have happened.” Astrid explained just above a whisper.
“And how, pray tell, did you screw up more than me? Because I think I did a pretty thorough job.”
Hiccup felt slightly relieved to see her blank stare turn into a glare directed at him. Astrid pressed her lips together tightly.
“I’m the one who led Drago to Berk.”
Hiccup furrowed his brow again, this time with disbelief.
“I don’t understand.”
Astrid pulled her hands away from his head and crossed her arms across her chest, folding in on herself.
“After you left Eret’s boat, I went to follow you. Your father stopped me and told me to lead the others back to Berk. He and Gobber went after you. After you three didn’t show up the next day, I decided to find you with the rest of the riders. We kidnapped Eret and had him lead us to Drago’s army. We were ambushed.”
Hiccup placed a hand on her knee, a concerned expression on his face.
“Did they hurt you?” He asked apprehensively, already searching her person for abrasions he might have missed.
“No. They paralyzed our dragons though.” Astrid answered as she squinted her eyes in anger. “They took us to Drago. We figured out he didn’t capture you, Gobber, and…your father. He was enraged about there being more dragon riders and seemed prepared to kill us. So, I came up with a stupid plan to try to get him to let us go.”
The shieldmaiden paused, gripping her biceps tighter.
“I told him there were hundreds of riders on Berk and that they would attack if he didn’t let us go. Then I mentioned you…used your name and everything. Told him you rode a Night Fury, were the heir to Berk, were the Dragon Master. That’s how he knew who you were when you confronted him, because of me. With this knowledge, he decided to attack your mom’s nest immediately and then…attack Berk.”
The absence of Astrid’s voice brought on a stifling silence. She turned her head to the side in shame and bit her lip nervously. She didn’t want to see her boyfriend’s reaction, to see the disgust and disapproval in his face. She felt as if she failed not only Berk, but him as well. She had vowed to protect their home, but she wound up putting it in danger. As her chief, he had every right to accuse her of Berk’s destruction and his father’s death. She had started the domino effect that led to both.
“So, now you know why he attacked Berk in the first place. I gave him the idea because I got cocky and opened my big mouth.” The shieldmaiden sneered.
“It would have happened eventually anyway.” Hiccup offered quietly, finally gathering his thoughts. “He already planned on attacking my mother and would have reached Berk eventually.”
“He was still preparing for his attack, Hiccup.” Astrid informed. “We could have prepared ourselves for him and had a better chance of driving him off, making the losses less. We could have gathered against him at the nest and maybe your dad…wouldn’t have…”
Hiccup shook his head, despite his lurching stomach.
“We would have been slaughtered by both his armada and the Bewilderbeast combined.” The chief reasoned, getting up to sit on the bench beside the shieldmaiden who still shyed away from him. “We wouldn’t have stood a chance. Our army isn’t nearly as big or formidable.”
“Toothless still could have challenged the Bewilderbeast and became the alpha of Drago’s dragons.” She was reaching for straws now. “We could have had all the dragons on our side and won.”
“Astrid, enough.” Hiccup sighed, exasperated. “It’s not your fault. You were trying to protect Berk and the results weren’t what you expected.”
Astrid turned to him glancing straight into his forest green orbs for the first time that night.
“The same goes for you.”
Hiccup opened his mouth, but found himself speechless yet again. He tried to think of something to retort with, but nothing meaningful or witty came to mind. She was right.
Sighing deeply, he reached over and eased one of her hands off her bicep and clasped it tightly in his own. It took a moment, but she eventually squeezed back, the pressure soothing both of their stress.
“I still feel like it’s my fault.” Astrid mumbled. “I don’t see how you’re not upset with how stupid I was.”
“Because I was just as stupid.” Hiccup responded earnestly. “And like I said, you were doing what you thought was best.”
“Likewise.” Astrid reiterated, making sure he knew his guilt was unfounded as well. “I guess, we’re both to blame…”
Hiccup smirked slightly before his expression turned thoughtful again. He wrapped his arms around Astrid’s lithe waist and pulled her snuggly against him, resting his chin on her head. He felt her own arms encircle his chest and her hands grip his leather armor firmly.
“Whether or not we are, it doesn’t really matter anymore. We just have to fix what’s been ruined.” Hiccup murmured as he buried his face in her hair.
Astrid smiled loosely at how chiefly he sounded. She hoped it was a sign of him starting to accept and move forward. For herself though, she did not feel ready to forgive herself. She still felt responsible for everything that occurred, for the pain her people and her love felt from their losses. She had always been on top of her actions, always in control of her emotions, but cockiness made her slip up. She vowed never to let that happen again, for her village’s sake and for her chief’s.
“Right. You’ll make it right again, like you always do.” The shieldmaiden agreed.
Hiccup pulled back a bit to glance down at her. He studied her face pensively for a moment before brushing the backs of his fingers across her cheek.
“We’ll make it right again.” He corrected softly, a small smile spreading on his lips.
Astrid couldn’t help but mimic him. Her lips only spread wider when his mouth descended upon hers. The knots of guilt in their stomachs finally began to come undone as they deepened the kiss, passing their support to one another through touches and groans.
It didn’t matter who was to blame. In the end, they would share the burden together.