Book 9 - The Mist in the Darkness - Chapter 21: No Stopping for Breath

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

Last week went extremely fast, so I did not get to posting another chapter last week.  However, I did write.  This week is going a little slower.  But with as much as I am doing now, I feel like even more busy doing all of my school work online than I would have been doing it in person.

 

Anyway, I hope you all are doing well and staying safe!

 

I hope you all enjoy the next chapter!

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Rest in Peace NarixuZen.  2004-2017

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

Proud Leader and fellow member of:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

I have two mixes for you because the first one is rather shorter.  So, if you get finished with the first one before the end of the chapter, you can use the second mix:
The Best of Epic Music February 2020 | Epic & Powerful Music Mix

2-Hours Epic Music Mix | THE POWER OF EPIC MUSIC - Full Mix Vol. 4

 

 

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Chapter 21

No Stopping for Breath

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         If today could not be any worse a day, I still have not had a chance to talk with Annabeth.  I slept in the stable to give Annabeth some space for her to think…  For me to think, but I did not get much sleep.  Sirena has a quiet yet annoying snore.  That is what I could say for an excuse, but I kept thinking about things which kept me up.

         This morning, I woke up to a plate of scrambled eggs, boar bacon, and toast with a mug of milk sitting next to me on a workshop table.  Though she did it for me, she said hardly anything to me all morning.  When I tried to kiss her on the cheek, she only titled her head to accept it.  This is something I have never experienced, so I am at a loss as to what to do.  I need to figured out the answer soon.

         Hiccup Terror Mailed he would be coming down to Berserker Island when he heard we had returned.  He wanted to pick up a few of us to then make our move against Nikora Stormheart.  Destroying her cache of Grimora venom was one thing but stopping her from completing what she has set out to do is another thing.  Hiccup wants to make a move in the window of time that we have bought ourselves.

         Hopefully, Nikora has not learned of our thwarting part of her supply.  Hiccup wants to talk to her before she gets angry.  But learning from his past experiences, he wants to be ready for anything.  Some people just cannot be reasoned with.  Dagur is brought into this seeing how he is our resident former “bad guy,” we again turn to him to see what Nikora might do next before we leave Berserker Island.  Besides him, Vixxen is our resident former “bad villainess” but is still recovering.  Clueing her into what we are doing, she also agrees.  Vixxen should be back in the saddle soon.

         Dagur laughs before we leave Berserker Island, “Get ready for a scrap, fellow Berserkers, friends, and family.  If I were her, I’d be sailing this direction right about now.  She’s going to be steaming mad when we come to her doorstep and we can’t afford to underestimate our enemies.  I have too many scars as it is.  The last thing she would expect is bring the fight to her.”  He then wraps his arm around Hiccup as he used to, “To Stormheart’s base!”

         Even though we could overwhelm them with numbers, the number of injuries could be substantial, especially with a foe that means business.  A smaller but capable team is picked by Hiccup.  Seeing how my crew has more battle experience, he picks more of us.  Knowing we cannot mess this up, the Twins are left behind as “backup.”  Dagur, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Hiccup, Astrid, Annabeth, and myself make the trip.  While Dagur thinks Hiccup should bring more with him, Hiccup does not want to wipe out Nikora.  He only wants to send the message to her that we do not tolerate what she is doing and wants to give her the opportunity to change.

         Throughout the whole trip, Annabeth is extremely quiet, she will not fly next to me, and distances herself from the rest of the group by bringing up the rear.  When I look to see her face, her eyes simply look at nothing in particular.  Anora is flying while Annabeth is just along for the ride.  She is definitely thinking of something.  Even while my crew has a job to do, I am also preoccupied.

         Once we are within a hundred yards of the collection of sea stacks making up the small island where Nikora usually anchors, we can see her ship starting to head north.  From here we can hear the great beast of a ship she has with its wood and metal working and grinding as they power through the sea.  Using our spy glass to see what is happening, she has all of her weapons out on her ship and has her soldiers racing across the ship.

         Dagur declares, “Oh, she definitely knows we destroyed her stuff!  We’re going to be in for a good old-fashioned ruckus!”  When a volley of flaming boulders come our way, though miss short, she definitely sees us.  “Well, it’s too late to turn back now!  Let’s send her reeling with the first punch, then we can flatten her with the one-two.  Destroy those crossbows on the ship and avoid hitting the captive dragons!”

         Hiccup informs, “We’ll draw fire while the three of you take out the crossbow launchers.”

         Dagur, Annabeth, and I form up and follow in behind the Dragon Riders.  They dive past the right side and the pirates take the bait.  With their backs turned, now our turn to attack.

         “Fredrick, stream!” I command.

         Fredrick pulls up, stretching his wings out, and lets out a steady stream of shockwaves which knocks down the nearby pirates.  They grab for their ears.  The soundwaves are loud and nothing else.  The stream gets wider the further it goes out.  Annabeth and Dagur swoop in overhead and send their dragon’s fire blasts straight into the crossbow launcher.  They do it again as they fly over the second launcher.  Both crossbows are obliterated as the disturbance of the soundwaves divides the fire blasts into smaller ones exploding on impact.  This creates a wider surface area to cover when knocking out weapon placements like this.

         The crossbow launchers on the other side did not ready their arrows as the Dragon Riders came on approach so Hiccup and them instead just took the crossbows out themselves.  There were two more launchers in the back of the ship.  Between dodging some archer shots as well as a couple of catapults, Hiccup and I flew our group right down the center of the two launchers.  Thinking that they would fire regardless of what we did, we pulled up right as they launched.  The two placements ended up taking each other out.  We finished the job by letting each have the might of our dragon blasts.

         I comment on the situation, “They are not using their catapults because we are staying close to the ship, they don’t want to damage it.  If we stay close, then we will have less to deal with.”

         Fishlegs then yells, “Yeah, but we cannot keep dodging the arrows for forever.  Something will have to give sooner or later.”

         Hiccup seeing the gravity of the situation, “We need to talk to Nikora and stop this chaos.  Land on her ship, Jarl and Annabeth.  Toothless and I will be right behind you!”

         Astrid adds, “Second that for me.”

         The rest of the crew continues to keep the rest of the pirates busy while we go talk to Stormheart.  We land on the side we first destroyed the crossbows, as there was no one over here.  Seeing the dragon cages, we try to see about freeing the dragons in them.  When we saw the combination locks on the door, we would not have the time to unlock every cage before we are caught.  Sure enough, Stormheart came up from the bow ship’s deck, another hundred feet or so opposite us.

         “It’s a pity it had to come down to this, Jarl.  Hiccup.  We could have been allies.  But now…,” her expression went from a sadden state to her true feelings.  “Now I will leave you shattered like flotsam in my wake!”

         Suddenly from under the dragon cages around us and on the side next to Stormheart, purple gas emits from trap doors in the deck, infecting the dragons.  Rising up from beneath are contraptions to release the venom similar to the one encountered before but this time improved.

         Hiccup yells, “Get back!”

         Our dragons had already sensed the dangers as they saw it and had leaped back out of the radius of the gas.  The dragons in the cages emerge…  With the same smoky fog effect that the Triple Stryke had when it attacked!

         The affected dragons flew overhead to block some of our paths to Stormheart.  But if that is not bad enough…

         Hiccup looks up and declares in disbelief, “What in Odin’s name is that?  It’s huge.”

         From behind Stormheart wheels forward on its own several wooden and metal beasts somewhat resembling vikings.  Their armor and weapons are all Stormheart made.  They too block our path to Stormheart.

         “I’ve seen bigger,” I quip.  “Though, they were not in working order.”

         “I’m sure you have, Jarl Mollerson,” smiles Stormheart.  “While these are nowhere near the might of the infamous Jotun of Izarian legend, these Automotons are still worthy enough to put up a fight.”

         These metal beasts have a resemblance to the Jotun, the three-hundred-year-old battlemechs that were built to fight during Izarian’s Ragnarök.  What they actually were used for -since the Barbaric Archipelago is still here unless Ragnarök was a localized event, though I highly doubt that- is still a mystery.  My first guess is that there is a real viking controlling these monstrosities; how, we will soon find out.

         “You two have always seen something bigger in a battle,” Hiccup shrugs then readies himself as do Annabeth and me.  “Well, guys, we know what to do…  Charge!”

         For the last several years, Astrid and Hiccup with Annabeth and me have sparred off and on.  We have also teamed up to spar against some of my crew and Hiccup’s.  Knowing Stormheart has already done her homework on all of us, only one glance at Hiccup is needed to confirm what tactic we will use.

         All four of us cross each other’s path while charging down the opposite side of the giant wooden paddle sticking up out of the ship’s deck.  But to throw our attackers off, Astrid follows me to the right and Annabeth goes with Hiccup to the left.  Our dragons lift into the air and go with the opposite rider, they both lay cover fire and distract the dragons when they come close.

         Running up to the first battlemech it waits until it sees me before turning to attack.  I raise my hand in the air, whirl it around, point at the battlemech…  And then duck.  Anora whips her spines to the mech to disorient before Astrid signals Toothless to plasma blast it off the deck.

         Quickly looking over the edge, I see it feel into one of the siege boats.  It lay motionless, which makes me question if there is a pilot at all.

         One other reason why Hiccup and Annabeth went the other direction is because there are more dragons on that path.  Using what he has learned from his mother and Fredrick and Annabeth’s darts for stunning the dragons, they incapacitate the dragons.  To finish it off, Annabeth throws a Flightmare Bomb at them to hold them until we are done here.

         A few Stormheart goons come up from the side of the ship.  Anora lays a couple of warning shots to stop their progress.  I then throw a Cracker Bomb, stunning them before Astrid and I use the blunt end of our axe and sword handles to knock out the goons in one fell swing.

         Making quick work of them, a Woolly Howl gallops towards us.  I run towards it head on but then slide just as it tries to pounce on me.  As I go under it, I fire a dart into its belly.  Distracted from I throw another Flightmare Bomb on it.

         Astrid points, “Jarl, lookout!”

         My instinct was to duck and good thing I did as a mech tried to slice me up.  I somersault back as Astrid runs forward screaming.  Any good fight, Astrid loves to be apart of.  I am starting to think Astrid may have some Berserkian in her because I have never seen her not scream as she is fighting in a battle just like any other Berserkian.  Then again, it is Astrid.

         Astrid slices it up instead which confirms there is not a pilot inside, so I am confused as to how the mechs work.

         Pressing forward, we near the other side and see the giant battlemech waiting for us, but we have to get there first.

         I glance at Stormheart, who is none too pleased nothing is really stopping us.  More goons come my way, but Astrid and I play the dodging game.  Astrid had ducked to my right, which I then rolled over her back to strike down the sword of the goon.  As I throw a sucker punch to the gut with my off hand, Astrid stays down but sweeps her legs around to knock out the other guy’s legs.  Taking my guy’s head and ramming my knee into his face, I knock him out, then send him into the other goons standing to the side.  They all are knocked off the edge and onto the other siege boat.

         “Jarl!” Annabeth yells.

         Before I could turn around, I hear a weapon strike through metal.  From behind me starts falling face forward a battlemech.  Rolling out of the way, I see Annabeth’s ax lodged into the back of the mech.  She comes up to it to retrieve her ax.  No words are spoken, but Annabeth glances at me to reveal a very slight smile.  I have not seen that in a couple of days.  But had I been thinking about yesterday, I would have seen where the mech had come from.  It was hiding behind some crates I had run past.

         After we had disarmed a few more goons, the giant battlemech is now active.  It rotated its whole torso around while spinning its weapons as a means of intimidation.

         We had our dragons fire at it first.  Fredrick fired a wave towards the mech while Toothless launched his plasma blast at it.  Anora and Stormfly flung their spines at it before flying over with a stream of their hot fire.  The only thing done to the battlemech was it fell over and only had to pull itself back up.  The wood, however, on the mech was gone or burning.  With no life in the mech, it did not care how much is thrown its way.  But it just wants to destroy us.  And if its face was not menacing enough, part of it is now burned away as if it is part demon possessed.  There has to be a reason as to how these mechs operate.

         Stormheart holds back the rest of her men near her while she questions, “How will get past this?”

         Only twirling my sword once to then hold it with both hands while Hiccup and Astrid ready their weapons and Annabeth stands beside Astrid.

         “Before you ax your question again,” I retort after a longer pause.  “You’ll have the answer to your question after we are done here, so you won’t have to ax again.”

         Our dragons were not ineffective, however.  I had another reason for them to fire.  With the wood gone or burning, we have spotted the weak areas of the mech.

         “Go!” I command.

         When I mentioned “ax” to Stormheart twice, this told the other three what plan of attack we will do.  Both Annabeth and Astrid take a step forward before hurling their axes at the beast.  Annabeth’s made a clean cut of its right arm which held a large anchor shaped blade.  Astrid’s axe was blocked by the mech’s left arm which has a hook on a line.  Because of this, Astrid stayed back to protect herself while Hiccup and I finished the job.

         I aim my sword at the mech’s head and fire my sword’s grappling hook.  As I jump, I reel myself in towards the mech.  It tries to fling its only arm at me, I duck and land on its shoulder and roll down its back.  Also, I retract my line again.  Hiccup engages the mech while I run around the mech once.  Running back to Toothless, I mount him tell him to sprint the opposite direction.  The line became taught and caused the mech to be knocked over again.  Hiccup dove out of the way but stayed close by.  Annabeth retrieved her ax.  In unison with Hiccup, they both take advantage of it being down this time to cut off the torso of the mech.  Returning to the group, I dismount and walk with the others towards a completely shocked Stormheart.

         “My Automoton!” she declares.

         Before anything cloud be done, we then hear one Dagur start yelling.  He yells anyway, but this is a surprised yell.  Whirling back, we see the same Triple Stryke which attack the School carrying Dagur off.

         Annabeth calls out, “Where are you going?”

         “I have no idea!”

         We all mount our dragons and the other fly into the air.  I hesitate as I look at Stormheart.  While she might not have expected to lose today, the look she gives me…  This is all part of the plan.  A shiver went down my spine as I have seen this look before.  What Stormheart might be planning next and with who…  Thoughts start racing through my head.  But the fact Fredrick launched into the air without me expecting, I saw around me goons were trying to converge on us.  So, I caught up with Hiccup and the others in our crew who regroup with us.

         “I think Stormheart got our message, but we need to deal with that dragon,” Hiccup says, “This might be the only way to stop the Triple Stryke without anyone getting hurt.  You’ve been able to get closer to the Triple Stryke than any of us, so you should wield the Dragon Blade this time, not me.  The saline solution Heather produced should rid the venom from the dragon’s system.  I know you can do it.”

         I confirm, “Now let’s go follow the Triple Stryke.”

         Fishlegs pointed that it flew back in the direction of the sea stack island.  We all fly to there and all land on the small shore.  I get off Fredrick and get a reminder from Hiccup in how to use the Dragon Blade.  I get a few looks of encouragement, but when I look to Annabeth, I do not get the exactly the same.  Although, she does have the confidence in me to get her brother back safely, she still has the preoccupied look.  Seeing her hold her arms close to her she still has a lot on her mind.

         There is a very small cove surrounded by the sea stacks which make up the only walkable part of the tiny island.  Coming to within ten yards of the Triple Stryke, it lashes out again roaring at me as it keeps its claws around Dagur.

         “Don’t worry about me, Jarl,” he tells me though I can sense the nervousness in his voice.  “Do what you need to do.  I’m more than ready to hidefor the cause!”

         “No need to talk like that Dagur,” I say in a calming tone.  “It’s just two vikings and a very upset dragon.”

         Seeing I am no immediate threat, the Triple Stryke settles down a bit but focuses more on keeping hold of Dagur.

         I say again, “No one is dying today, Dagur.  We just need to hold that dragon in place before it does something reckless.”

         “Like take me with it.”

         “Dagur,” I sternly tell him.  “For once you need to act like a Berkian and not a Berserkian.  A rogue dragon will attack any normal Berserkian.”

         “Hey!  Are you saying I would cause anyone to attack me?”

         The dragon got irritated at how Dagur resembles that remark, so I took a few steps forward and fired up the Dragon Blade.  The abruptness of the sound of the blade retracting to open and it lighting on fire caught the attention of the Triple Stryke.  It froze for a moment before trying to think if I am still a threat.  Dagur also became quiet as he looks on.

         In a slow motion, I wave the blade back and forth and the dragon is almost mesmerized by the blade, but the venom in its system is still making it uncomfortable.  Knowing I have little time to work with before the dragon lashes out again, I press the secondary button on the hilt to release the Flightmare gas onto the dragon.  Dagur is about to protest it falling on him too, but he could not respond because it did.

         With the dragon frozen for a moment, I take the saline solution injector and gently insert it into her neck.

         I muffle under my breath, “That should get rid of the Grimora toxin in her system.”

         Moments later as the Flightmare gas wears off, the smoky fog in its mouth does the same.  As if someone put out a fire, the dragon’s demeanor changed in almost an instant.  It instinctively let go of Dragon and sat back.  Dagur stood up and is amazed that the dragon looks at him as if it had no memory of what just happened before the injection.

         Dagur then steps over to me, holds his arm out and I shake his forearm, “Thank you.  I may downplay a lot of dangerous situations, but being picked up by a dragon like that…  Brings back some memories of a former time.  While these are magnificent beasts, they are still animals of the wild.  Respecting them for being as they are, we can still be susceptible to the evil in the world making them change from how we know them.”

         Dagur then clears his throat as the rest of the group walks up behind us, he jokes, “My life was flashing before my eyes.  There were a shocking number of axes!  Seems to me that I’ve been doing things right.”

         With the dragon’s demeanor completely opposite of what it was, the Triple Stryke is hesitant to the crew coming in, but Hiccup “introduced” himself, “It’s going to be okay, girl.  Everything is going to be okay.  Maybe you would like to have a friend?”

         Thinking Hiccup would do the hand thing now, Hiccup stays where he is.  Looking at him, Hiccup’s expression wants me to do the honor.

         I step to its snout.  Being this close, I hear a slight rumble of a growl, but subsides when I do not back down.  Reaching my hand up in a subtle fashion, I close my eyes.  I feel its nostrils smell my hand a couple of times before…

         The Triple Stryke puts its snout in my hand and the rumble of a purr!

         A shiver flew down my spine as I have not done this since Fredrick.  The memories of bonding with Fredrick for the first time flood my mind.  Opening my eyes, I start to gently rub the Triple Stryke’s snout.  It reacts to changing its purr every time I touch its snout.

         I smile as I see the dragon’s eyes change from the previous slits to open pupil, “Good, good.  You were just lashing out, huh… Ruby.  You just wanted to find and save your egg.  That’s all you wanted, even when your mind was being tainted by the Grimora venom.”  I take a deep breath before adding as I look Ruby in the eyes, “I promist you that you will always have my support.  You will have all of our support, girl, no matter what situation you are in.”

         Turning around to look at the group, Astrid remarks as she shoves Hiccup, “The hand thing never gets old.”

         Snotlout speaks up, “Are you kidding me?  He can do the hand thing too?  Come on.”

         Heather replies as if she missed something, “You can do it too, Snotlout.”

         Astrid shakes her head, “Ignore him.  He’s never going to figure out even he did it once.”

         “I did it?!” he says surprised.  “When did I do it?  How did I have the ability to do it?  I mean…  Of course, I have the ability to do it.  Watch.”

         He runs down as an excited child getting permission from their mother to get some candy.  Snotlout holds his hand out in front of Hookfang.

         Snotlout closes his eyes…

         Hookfang looks at his hand…

         Then flies away.

         “Hookfang!  You get your butt back here… Right now!”

         He looks back at us trying to play it off as all part of the plan, but it is not working.  He just frowns his face, folds his arm, and says in disgust, “Shut up, Astrid.”

         Hiccup announces, “With Stormheart retreating for now, let’s reunite this dragon with her egg.”

         As we mount our dragons, Heather nudges me, “Ruby, eh?”

         “Oh, come on,” I downplay.  “We can’t keep calling her ‘it’ or Triple Stryke forever.”

         “Why Ruby?”

         “Well, I thought since the fire in her to protect her family is as obvious as the flame within a ruby gem, I thought it made sense.  Not to mention the overall red undertone of her dark orange-ish color.”

         “Let me ax you this,” Heather winks.  “Will you try to train her?”

         “Oh you heard about that,” I shrug, “At least not right now.  Ruby has been through a lot.  Maybe…,” I pause and sigh as I think about something.  “Maybe she just needs time to herself right now to sort things out.  Give her some space with her family and maybe I can come back then.”

         If it is not obvious, Annabeth is on my mind.  I find myself needing to listen to my own advice many times.  And in this dispute between Annabeth and me, I need to heed it now more than ever.  I really do not know at the moment what the dispute is at its core, but that is the very thing I need to figure out.

         Returning to Berk instead, we reunite Ruby with her egg.  The statue was taken to the Dragon Arena, so we flew there.

         Astrid explains as the egg is still in the broken statue, “We thought about moving the egg from the broken statue, but I didn’t feel comfortable moving it in case she would reject it for having another scent on it she did not trust.  Because you have now bonded with Ruby, can you help her out by taking her egg out of the statue?”

         With Ruby looking on with all interest, I walk up to the statue and set the egg in front of her.  Ruby with all joy brings the egg into her arms.  The uniqueness of the smaller Triple Stryke forearms, this is the first time I have seen a dragon cuddle an egg.  It could not be any cuter.

         After a few moments, Ruby came to me, lifting her egg up, and did her best to try and give me the egg.

         “What are you doing, Ruby?” I question.

         Reluctantly taking the egg as if this is the first time holding a baby, “What?  I can’t take your egg, Ruby.”

         “I knew that you were making a deep connection with the Triple Stryke,” Hiccup declares.  “She’s made a great choice in confiding in you and entrusting you with her egg.”

         “Guess she’s not taking no for an answer,” I breathe.  “Typical woman.”  I clear my throat.  “Did I say that out loud?”

         Before any other woman there could quip back, Ruby snorted as if to say she is not like any other girl I have met before.

         Looking up at Ruby, I offer my hand again as I accept her gracious offer, “Thank you, Ruby.”  Pausing while Ruby bowed to my hand again, I add, “Now, I will need someone to look after the egg in the meantime, so any-.”

         I am cut off by Ruby taking back the egg.

         “Okay, maybe I should have named you Dawn, ‘Sure I’ll give this gift in appreciation for saving me.  But instead of actually letting you have it, I’ll take it instead.  I just thought it would be a nice gesture.’”

         Dawn, who made the trip with us, walked up behind me and smacked me on the back of the head before leaning on my shoulder like an armrest, “I’m right here idiot.  I mean, I would at least let you be witness to its birth, but you wouldn’t know the first thing about raising and training a Triple Stryke.”

         I chuckle, “Are you saying that you would want to help me train it?”

         “No,” she jabs me in the side -and her jabs are like a sucker punch- so I buckle a bit on impact.  “I will train it and the tadpole can watch.  The next one, you are all on your own.”

         As I rub my side couple of times, “Thanks…  I think.”

         At this time, the sun has set, and night began to fall.  Hiccup then showed Ruby and the rest of us the way into our Dragon Stables to find one of the best places in the upper levels beneath the village.  The Stables are probably the second busiest site on Berk, even at night.  Dragons and vikings coming in and out.  Although, right now, it is a bit quieter as vikings are home eating supper.

         Letting Ruby find the one she wants in the Triple Stryke Wing, she settles on a stable.  We all look on as we see Ruby making a nest in her new home.  Seeing she is safe and sound, everyone disembarks on errands or takes the opportunity to say hi to some friends while we are here on Berk.

         I turn to say something to Annabeth, but she is already halfway down the hallway.  Anora had stayed because she sensed I wanted to say something but could only look back and forth between her rider and me.  Dragon or not, Anora looked sad that Annabeth and I are not really speaking right now.  So am I.

         Feeling a tap on the shoulder, I turn to see Dagur, “You must prove yourself worthy of that Triple Stryke.  Do you understand?  You have a great burden on your shoulders, one that will rest heavily on you for the rest of this dragon’s life.”

         “Thanks for making raising a dragon like it is a life or death situation.  No pressure.”

         Even though he is my brother-in-law, he still scares me sometimes of what he is capable of doing if I step out of line.

         “Don’t worry:  Berserkers never abandon our own.  Ever,” he stares at me.  I get the feeling he has noticed the space between me and Annabeth.  His look of intent to harm changed to “good guy” Dagur, “You’ll have all the help you need.”

         Dagur changes the subject, “One thing’s for sure, Jarl:  There’s no end to the adventures that seem to surround Berk and Berserker Island now with you and your crew around.  I’ll have to stick around you more often to make sure you can conquer all who challenge you…  Including that stuck up Grim Gnasher herder Skygge.  After all, power will only attract more contenders.  And with the Berserkian lineage to the throne now fully back in place, Berserker Island will soon be back as the powerhouse it once was.  And with that will emerge contenders to even our way of life with dragons.  And thanks to Hiccup, we’ve befriended the greatest power in the world, the Triple Stryke!” I know he means dragon, but he too is the only other one to train this dragon.  “We’ll need to be careful.  I’m sure Astrid is just itching for more of a chance to protect her land.  Will you tell her I pledge my axe and my life to the cause?”

         He did not wait for an answer and left me to do it, “And there he goes.”

         Seeing Astrid was nearby, I complete what he wanted me to do.  She is near Stormfly’s personal stable.

         Astrid chuckles and shakes her head after hearing what Dagur told me to say, “Well, I hope it won’t come to that!”  She becomes serious with intention, “During the fight on the deck of Stormheart’s ship to the attacks at the School and on Berk, it was no accident that we made it through unscathed.  You have an excellent head for strategy.  If you keep at it, you might be able to take over the defense of Berserker Island.  I’ll just be sure to grill you ten times harder from now on, so you better be ready!”

         We both laugh.

         I add in response to her compliment, “Thank you, Astrid.”

         She leans on the stable wall looking at her dragon, “I don’t think we could have ever gotten close to solving this mystery without figuring out that she was using Grimora’s venom on the Triple Stryke.  Thank Odin for Heather and Hiccup’s microscope, and for your observations about the dragon’s saliva.  I really should be thanking your whole family.  Like brother, like sisters.  Asvord has helped out quite a bit and Elsa has been a huge asset to the School in figuring out some of its mysteries especially with the Krayfin.  Elsa took your cue and named that mystery, ‘Secret of the Leviathan.’”

         I chuckle at my little sister trying to be like me, “She is one of the smartest and most well-equipped young women I know.  If only she had a little more confidence in herself more often.”  But I look down.  “Right now, I wonder if she really would want to be like me in view of recent events.”

         Astrid’s gentle hand rests on my shoulder, I still cannot look up, “I’m sure that we’ll be able to outwit Stormheart when she comes back.  And of course, she’ll comeback.  Any foe of Hiccup has a nasty tendency to stick around.  If you ask me, you are acting more like some of the people from that book you like reading.  Too much, ‘Woe is me,’ if I understand the passage.  Jarl:  Your bravery and skills never fail to impress me.  There are so many things we haven’t done yet…  Just you wait.”

         I finally look up and see a friend honestly caring for what is going on.  I take a deep breath before standing up straighter.

         “That’s more like it,” Astrid remarks as she adjusts to leaning on the wall with her right arm.  “Even with this welcomed breather, still, I am a bit worried about the different players coming into this archipelago with all that you have reported.  With regards to Stormheart, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her.  I saw the ambition and anger burning in her eyes when we were, err, attacking her ship.  I’m sure she has something devious of her sleeves, so we’ll have to be ready.”

         A moment passes by before she exclaims, “Oh!  That reminds me.  There’s only one part that I don’t understand.  Why would herald help us?  He’s clearly on Stormheart’s side.  I wish we could find him at Auction island so that we could pick his brain.”

         From one of the hallways walks towards us one of the foremen of the docks.  He comes up to Astrid to inform, “There’s a young man here asking for Hiccup.”

         “Young man?” Astrid echoes.  “Who would want to see Hiccup at this hour?”

         Taking a wild guess, though knowing full well it was true, I clinch my fist, “Harald.”

         “Here?!” Astrid exclaimed.  “I wouldn’t think he would be stupid enough to march right into the heart of his enemy and ask for us.”

         “That never stopped him before,” I comment.  I then ask the foreman, “Does the man have blonde hair, blonde goatee with short beard, a little bit of white war paint across his face, and does he have a green Terrible Terror with him?”  I tag on the end to see if there is another blonde haired guy I want to punch right now.

         “The Terrible Terror is actually purple.”

         Astrid and I look at each other before racing off to the docks.

         “You’re welcome,” the foreman yells back before not thinking anything else about it.

         Astrid and I take Fredrick down to the docks because Stormfly had already been bed down for the night.  Arriving at the docks a few minutes later, we hop off and see a deserted dock area.  I mean it is always like this at this time, but knowing Harald is here, it is as if he knew no one else would be around.

         Searching the piers for his boat, we find it at the very end.  Astrid jumps off Fredrick even before he lands to look on his ship.  I barely caught up to her before she stepped on to Harald’s ship.

         “Wait,” I call figuring something is not right.

         The moment she walks past stack of crates, Harald steps out from behind them and seizes Astrid, bring a knife to her throat.  Astrid instantly grabs for his arm.

         Before she could try and disarm him, I told her, “Astrid, no!”

         “Yes, listen to your boy.”

         “Are you kidding me right now?  It’s Harald.”

         Addressing Harald, I ask him, “Let me guess, if we don’t let you return to Stormheart by tomorrow, she will come with all her force and attack Berk?”

         Harald nods his head, “I keep telling her she’d better not underestimate Hiccup, let alone you.”

         Astrid eased up and so did Harald.  He took his knife away and shoved Astrid back over to me.  She slightly rubs her throat a couple of times before he apologizes.

         “Sorry, Astrid.  Knowing you, you would have come down right away and tried to punch me, knocking me out.  Then you’d have a war on your hands.  Being the nice guy that I am, I knew you wouldn’t have wanted that.  So, I took the measure I did to protect myself.”

         Astrid snaps, “Cut to the chase before I change my mind.  What did you want with Hiccup?”

         “I don’t want anything to do with Hiccup.  I wanted to talk to Jarl, but you gracing me with your presence is a bonus.”

         I reply, “Just because you were a help to us before, doesn’t mean you can waltz in here any time you please.”

         “Ha!”  Harald laughs, “And don’t you get used to my help, Jarl.  Harald only looks out for number one.  Harald!”

         Leopold lets out his tiny Terrible Terror roar before jumping on his shoulder.

         “And, well, Leopold, I guess.  But that’s it.  It’s the two of us against the world.”

         Astrid shows her impatience, “My mercy is fading rapidly.  Why are you here?”

         Harald responds in an adamant way, “Next time Stormheart and I show up, you best not get in the way.  I won’t let my tender spot for you, Jarl, and Leopold slow me down.  Ta ta until then.  Now, get off my ship.”

         I correct him as Astrid and I step back onto the pier, “Eh, I’d call this more of a boat.  A ship can carry a boat but a boat cannot carry a ship.”

         “Unless you make a model of it,” he shoves his boat off.  “See you around kid.”

         Watching me sail away is such a hard thing to do, because I want to punch his sorry face so bad right now.

         Astrid lets out her frustration, “Oh, it just irks me that he would have the gull to come up to our front step and think he has nothing to be afraid of.”

         “With Harald confirming Stormheart is planning something else and knowing that we will try to stand in their way,” I sigh.  “This is just one more thing we will have to deal with.”