HTTYD/SoD Clan Roleplay: The Rise of Earthguard
Haelstrom bounded onto the ship as the distance grew between it and the dock, the island and its occupants raging behind them. They collided onto the deck as the Freyja slipped out unmolested into open waters, exhausted and beaten. Eira slid off Hael's back only to fall to the deck on her knees in a defeated heap, head hung in quiet anguish. The silence and sorrow that blanketed the ship and its crew was defeaning, almost unbearable as each of them sat alone in their grief, staring despondently at nothing. Even the dragons drooped in despair. Ambolt and Grandma Hilde stared out from the railing at the dwindling island and their lost loved one. The pink nadder wilted as the distance grew between him and his rider. In the silence, his breathy wimpers could just be heard over the slap of water and the creaking of wood.
Though a lifeless husk on the outside, Eira raged within herself, her fists clenching into balls. What happened?! How did they manage to screw up this badly?! She knew it made sense, that they had to leave. They had no choice! She tried to tell herself that over and over, that they had to... they had to... But it didn't make the pain go away. They failed Eslig. They left him. THEY LEFT HIM!
A scream tore through Eira's throat, one that startled the dragons and other Earthguardians out of their listless stupor. She spun around angrily, snatching up her daggers and throwing them with all her rage and emotions, fanning out in a spray of spines embedding in deck, mast, barrels. Huffing from the exertion, she sagged back down to her knees in defeat. The others looked on in sympathy and remorse, their own emotions welling inside of them, but no one dare speak up, lest it cement it in reality. Driftwood's head drooped sadly at his rider's actions before swooping up into the air, drifting listlessly alongside the ship. Haelstrom plopped down next to his girl, exhausted and wounded but wanting to be there for her. Another movement tugged at her peripheral but wasn't enough to drag her up out of her misery. Rue crouched beside her, resting a hand gently on her arm before she began to quietly clean and bandage her cut, her presence a small comfort.
"I did this..." Eira managed to croak out past the lump swelling in her throat. "If I hadn't got caught... If he didn't have to..." Her fists bunched again and she slammed them into the wooden boards of the deck. "He wouldn't have gotten caught!"
High above the ship and the smoke, brief glimmers of blue and silver flashed in and out of the darkening rain clouds as drops began to fall on them.
((Awesome, nice job on the vid!))
((Fantastic video, Rue. Thank you so much for making it! Also, yay for reaching 1,000 posts! This ropeplay has been so much fun for me.))
Eslig slept fitfully as the ship creaked and groaned aroud him. The cell floor was dirty, with a couple old hay bales and a trough that was incapable of holding water. The air was stuffy and rank, punctuated by occasional roars from other cells. Some natural light filtered in when the trapdoor opened occasionally for the changing of the guard, otherwise the belowdecks was lit only by a few flickering torches on the wall. Though his face still hurt ((1st/2nd degree burns, for clarification)), he drifted back into an uneasy sleep.
Eslig awoke suddenly as water splashed over him. Spluttering and coughing, he raised his arms in a futile attempt to avoid the rest of the bucket's contents being dumped on him. "Awake now, are ye?" guffawed a guard. He forced chains over Eslig's wrists and dragged him out of his cell and up into the fresh air on the deck. Eslig did his best to walk on unsteady legs but the guard set a quick pace and more than once the boy stumbled.
Blinking against the sudden sunlight, Eslig only caught glimpses of Dragon Hunters, catapults, and crossbows that packed the deck of the ship. The wind picked up and he shivered, the cool breeze made icy by the water that had awaken him. Then, Eslig and the guard passed through a door into what Eslig guessed was the Captain's cabin. Now plunged into (relative) darkness, Eslig's eyes had to adjust again.
The cabin was a mix between a dining room and a study. A large, rectangular table dominated the room, while the back wall was covered in charts and maps. All manner of delicacies covered the table, which was lavishly set for two. A man stood calmly, his back to Eslig as he studied the wall of maps. The guard shoved Eslig into a chair and turned to leave. At a cough from the strange man, the guard sheepishly returned and removed Eslig's shackles, then retreated outside the cabin.
"Please, eat" said the man, his voice silky smooth. "I'm sorry for the way you've been treated thus far. You must be starving".
At the man's words, Eslig's stomach rumbled. He hadn't realized how hungry he really was. Slowly, he reached for a loaf of bread, and as he did a hand shot out from the shadows, pinning his arm to the table. "Maudine was right" said the man who was holding Eslig's wrist, and Eslig could make out the silhouette of two swords on his back. With a start, Eslig realized that his bracers were gone.
The man across the table from him finally turned, a smile spreading across his face as he took in Eslig's tattoo. "Welcome home, Dragon Hunter. My name's Viggo."
((Thank you, I'm glad that you like the video! :-) And Mar: An Earthguard advertising video sounds like a nice idea! If you ever start that project, feel free to ask me in case you need help with screenshots or videoclips :-)
Eslig: Whoa, Viggo and Ryker! This is getting intense. I like it :-) ))
Some heads turned when Eira's scream of despair sounded over the ship. Rue watched her shooting her daggers on the ship's mast for a while, then her her gaze went over to Mar, trying to tend Jasper's leg and Tally, almost hidden by some barrels, sitting all alone on the far end of the ship. Rue wanted to cheer her friends up, just so that she had not to feel her own sadness and feelings of guilt anymore. It was almost unbearable. Still feeling numb, she watched herself go searching for her backpack and rummage for some bandages and ointment, her movements automatical like a machine. After handing a bandage and some ointment to Mariella, she went over to Eira and Hael and started to bandage the cut on Eira's arm.
"I did this... If I hadn't got caught... If he didn't have to..." Eira slammed her fist into the wooden boards of the deck. "He wouldn't have gotten caught!"
"We ALL did this..." Rue calmly answered her, her head held low and her vocal tone a bit harsher than usual. She slightely shook her head. "It just happened..."
She tried to put some ointment on Hael's wounds, too, but he grimaced at her and moved behind Eira. When Rue went after him, he started circling around his rider, not wanting to leave her right now, but also hiding from Rue's ointment. After following him for three rounds around Eira, Rue gave up.
Thick raindrops started to fall from the dark sky and silently, one after the other, they went under deck. Rue was glad that most of them took care of their and their dragon's wounds themselves. Almost everyone was hurt a little but luckily, noone was injured too badly. Exhausted by the sadness, Rue sat down on the floor. Gothic came wiggeling over and tried to comfort her. Touched by his kindness, Rue leaned against him and despite his spikes, it helped her a bit.
Now that they were all gathered together, Mar spoke up in order to make plans. Rue didn't feel quite ready to plan anything, her mind still busy with the last past hours. But suddenly, she remembered her encounter with the two slaves earlier. "Please, have any of you gathered any information that could aide us in the rescue of Eslig and the missing dragons?"
Rue spoke up. "There seems to be some guy who is buying all small and baby dragons that he can get his hands on in the whole archipelago at the moment. In five days, there will be a huge sale for which most of the dragon hunters are preparing right now. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to find out on which island this sale will take place..."
Mar's eyes lit up a bit after this new information.
"Sounds like our dragons could be there. Does anybody know something about the meeting place?"
Silence spread among their group, only interrupted by a low bleating from Tally's basket.
((If anyone of you has an idea how we are going to find out about the place of the sale, go ahead. Ideas that I had so far: maybe we could have Ambolt track Eslig and automatically lead us there (because I assume Viggo will go to this sale as well) or maybe the baby Buffalord can give us any hint.))
Tally sat quietly with the baby dragon on her lap, Ellen coiled behind her. They thought Eslig could have survived that inferno? She couldn't see how, but she wasn't sure how to say so. Besides, she wanted to share their optimism - it made her feel less guilty. Not only had she helped the dragon burn down half of Auction Island, she'd wrecked their mission: she had enough on her conscience right now. Her new dragon bleated gently, and she absent-mindedly started stroking it again.
"Could Ambolt track Eslig?" Eira piped up uncertainly. Ambolt stretched out his wings - Donni and Hael ducked out of his way, Hael snarling in irritation - and screeched at the mention of Eslig.
"He seems to think so." Mar stepped in front of the pink dragon, held out her hand and lowered it: Ambolt folded in his wings and, after a moment, nudged her hand gently. She scratched him under his chin.
"We'll find him, boy, I promise."
Right at that moment, the Night Terror Rue had been treating for arrow wounds started chittering, and after a moment two of its packmates flew in.
"What is it, my dears?" Grandma asked. The Terrors fluttered up and down, chattering and squeaking excitedly, and flitted out onto the deck.
The Earthguardians followed them out. For a moment, Tally could not see anything through the heavy grey rain: then she heard shouting, and made out the silhouette of a small boat off their starboard bow.
"They must have come from Auction Island! That boat is tiny - they can't possibly get far in that," Grandma gasped.
"We need to get closer!" Mar said decisively.
"Right. Brasa, Rue, help the Night Terrors with the sails. We need to turn about. Eira, Tally, get to the ropes," Grandma ordered. Tally plonked the baby dragon on the crate she'd been sitting on and jumped to attention.
The Freyja swung smoothly about despite the slowly rising waves. When they were close enough to make out the figures aboard the tiny boat, Tally and Eira threw out the line. A tug told her that someone had caught hold of the rope, and they hauled together with the rope twisted around Ellen's tail to secure it.
The man that came up and over the side was big and burly, with a broken nose and a scar under one eye. Eira hissed when she saw him, although he did not seem to notice.
"Thanks for picking me up. Look, I know it's a big ask, but I've got some valuable goods down there I need to bring up. Could you help... WOAAAAAGH. Stay back, ladies, looks like your cargo has escaped!" The man jumped in front of them. Tally and Eira spun in confusion to face the same direction as the big man, who had drawn two knives and sunk into a fighting crouch.
Ellen just peered curiously at him, but Hael responded with an outraged snarl. Tally and Eira looked at one another, and light dawned in their faces.
"Your valuable goods... what would they be?" Tally asked. As if in answer, she and Eira heard cries from the boat.
"HELP! HELP!" "You can't just leave us chained up!" "Please don't leave us here!"
Eira grabbed a random heavy object and walloped the man viciously about the back of his head. He stood stock still for a second, then keeled over.
"Watch him, Hael. If he tries anything, put him overboard," Eira ordered. She looked back at Tally. "You stay up here, I'm going down to help them"
Tally just nodded. Eira hopped over the side as if she did this every day, and disappeared down the rope into the grey murk below.
After a few minutes, her mane of hair appeared over the side, followed by her face. "Has he got the keys?"
Tally approached the unconscious man. Hael growled.
"It's me, you daft dragon!"
Hael grunted at being called "daft", but he stepped aside and let Tally search the man. She found his keys and handed them down to Eira, who once again diasppeared down the rope like a squirrel.
Tally leaned over the side, listening through the murk. The rain dampened the sound: she heard voices, then raised voices, but couldn't tell what they were saying. Suddenly, she felt a tug. She and Ellen hauled on the ropes, and up came a young woman.
"You have to put it back down!" she said pleadingly to Tally before she was even on the deck. "Please, we're soaked through and he won't last - AAAAAH - "
She clapped a hand to her mouth and pointed to Ellen, who looked a little offended at being screamed at for the second time in a row.
"It's okay, we like slavers about as much as you do." Tally pointed to the unconscious man on the floor. Hael grumbled. The girl stared at Tally.
"You - you're... you're the Dragon Riders..." She froze to the spot, mouth open. Tally nodded.
"Yes, we are. It's OK, you're safe now. But we need to get your friends off that boat. Can you help me?"
The girl made a noise in her throat, stil staring at Ellen. Ellen leaned towards her, opened her huge tooth-filled mouth, and rattled reassuringly. The girl whimpered and started shaking.
"Never mind. Look, just go up there and tell the others we've rescued you, will you? Come on, Ellen, let's get the next one." Tally sighed and threw the rope over the side. The girl inched past Hael and Ellen, trembling with cold and fear, and then broke into a run.
The next person to come up was a young man, who instantly demanded "Where is she? What have you done with her? Who arRRRAAAGGH!"
Tally pointed. "The dragons won't hurt you. She went that way. Feel free to join her, I have more people to rescue."
He too stared at Tally open-mouthed for a moment, then took off to find his friend.
Tally and Ellen hauled up another five people, all of whom reacted to the dragons in much the same way, before Eira scrambled back up and announced "That's all of them. Let's get inside - I'm soaked!"
Hael picked up the unconscious man by the back of his jerkin and dragged him away. Tally and Ellen were left to shepherd the terrified slaves back into the interior of the Freyja, where they found Rue talking excitedly. The first two slaves stood stock-still in front of Rue, Mar and Grandma as Rosemary sniffed them over.
"I met them on Auction Island," Rue was saying to Mar. "They know where the dragon sale is happening!"
"So does he," Eira said, pointing to the man Hael was hauling along by his clothing.
((Hurrah for slightly improbable coincidences. Rue - since you introduced these two I thought I'd leave it to you to name them. And the video is lovely, I grinned all the way through!
This is really long so I don't want to add much more, but I had a thought. What if ever since Spitelout decided to torture one of Viggo's men way, way back, Viggo has been using the story of his capture and rescue to paint the Dragon Riders as the bad guys? You just know Spitelout threatened to feed Viggo's man to his Nadder, right? What if the rumours have gotten so out of hand the slaves we've just rescued believe we're going to sacrifice them to the gods and/or feed them to the dragons as part of some sort of unholy ritual magic to allow us to control the dragons? I think it's about time that particular heap of unpleasant smelly goop hit the fan...))
Eslig's thoughts raced as he realized the significance of the man's words. Viggo? The Viggo Grimborn? But the man was speaking again.
"I'm sure you've learned a lot during your time with the Dragon Riders. I assume that you know who I am?" Wordlessly, Eslig nodded. "Good. Then I'll spare the introductions" Viggo said.
"All that knowledge" Viggo continued. "The way I look at it, you have two options: either you tell us what you know or we make you. You bear the mark of a Dragon Hunter, it shouldn't be too hard to decide whose side you are on."
Eslig lunged at the man but was restrained by Ryker. "I'll never join you!" he yelled. "Even now, my friends are on their way to rescue me. We've been working with Hiccup."
Viggo sighed, as if disappointed. "Your so-called 'friends' left you to die. They never trusted you, and when the time was right they abandoned you."
"LIAR!" Eslig shouted, but a sword at his throat silenced him.
"Don't worry, I'll repay them for their treachery. They'll find my dragon sale much harder to infiltrate than Auction Island. But if you cooperate, I can promise that they won't be killed..."
A worm of doubt had sprung up inside of Eslig, and it burrowed its way deep inside his head, whispering in Viggo's voice. Shaking his head against it, Eslig squared his shoulders resolutely. "You underestimate my friends, just as you've underestimated Hiccup and his friends."
Something flashed in Viggo's eyes, and Eslig could tell that he'd struck a nerve. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the look vanished.
"Break him" Viggo ordered, and as Eslig was being dragged out Viggo removed a piece from his Maces and Talons board. Only later would Eslig realize that Viggo had removed one of his own pieces...
((Did anyone notice that we totally forgot about Styggy? :-D I remembered just now that he was with us the whole time.
Tally, I'm not quite sure if I got where you want to go with these rumours about the dragon riders. But just go with it and I'll watch what happens :-) Anyway, I named the two slaves and their master as well... Captain Hake (=swedish for hook) I thought sounds nice, because somehow I imagine him looking like Captain Hook from Disney's Peter Pan :-) ))
Rubinesse was busy for some minutes turning the sails against the strong wind and the heavy rain and helping the Night Terror Crew out, so that, when she came back to her friends, Eira was already making short work of the captain of the small ship. Rue gasped in surprise. Even now, that he was unconsciously lying on the floor, face downwards, she recognized the black and red silky costume that he was wearing. "That's the master of the two slaves that I met!"
Now, with double effort, she helped pull the trader's "cargo" up. After the girl and the boy that Rue already knew they helped another five people on board, all wearing the thin linen slave's clothes. A few moments and two teenage Gronckles flying up from the ship into freedom later, Eira reappeared.
"That's all of them. Let's get inside - I'm soaked!"
Rue hurried to catch up with the boy and the girl who were in dry clothes already and, still a bit frightened, standing next to Mar and grandma Hilde.
"Hey...it's good to see you two again. You're safe now." From their surprised looks, Rue could tell that they recognized her. "I'm sorry that I had to lie to you earlier about who I am, but me and my friends here were on Auction Island in disguise because we want to find our dragons that the hunters took from us..."
For a moment, both looked at her as if she had just grown a second head but then the boy said: "Well, yeah... looks like you're a dragon rider." Anxiously, both suspiciously eyed at Gothic who had wiggeled up behind Rue and who was eyeing the new vikings curiously himself.
"Umm, that's Gothic. And I'm Rue by the way."
They both turned when Jasper came closer, smiling so friendly that one just had to love him and believe that he meant no harm.
"My name's Mariella. Who are you two?", Mar spoke up after the girl had gathered all her courage and had touched Jasper's nose.
"My name's Ivan." And when his friend didn't answer because she wasn't sure if she should be afraid or laugh by Jasper licking her hand, he added "And this is Irina."
Rue quickly explained to her clanmates that those were the two people whom she had spoken to earlier. "They know where the dragon sale is happening."
"So does he". Unceremonously dropped by Hael, the trader came to his senses. Hectically, he looked around in order to register the current situation he was in. But after Mar had laid out her bargain to him, he firmly looked her in the eye and burst in sounding laughter.
"Do you know who you're talking to, dragon rider? I'm known to the whole archipelago as Captain Hake. I own more slaves and trading ships than you dumb bunch of vikings can even imagine. Do any harm to me or my trading goods and my dear friends, the dragon hunters, will make you pay for it severely."
"I guess he doesn't know that we already freed all of his dragons..." Tally whispered to Brasa, a mischievous smile on her face.
"And I'm certainly not giving you any information." he continued, spitting every word.
"The sale will be on Armorwing island", Irina shyly piped up, flinching after a minacious look by the captain.
((Rue: I'm thinking it would be a very Viggo-like move to tell everyone we are evil, to make other Viking tribes turn against us and support him instead. For now, it means the slaves we've freed might find it difficult to trust us...
And a hake is also a type of fish, so I feel like we just arrested Captain Birdseye.))
They had what they needed thanks to Irina, so Captain Hake was duly dragged away and locked up somewhere in the bowels of the ship. Grandma declared that they all looked like they needed a good feed, so the members of Earthguard were sent off to various corners of the ship for supplies. Tally was put on blanket duty: Grandma had a hearty stew in mind, so her limited skills with a frying pan were not required. She made up comfortable bunks for each of the ex-slaves, her new baby dragon following her about with ponderous little steps, Ellen helping to shift planks and benches and carrying stacks of bedding. They had even dug up some spare clean clothing: more of those linen tunics, but with warm undergarments and sensible woollen coats to go on top.
By the time Grandma called out that the meal was ready Tally was only slightly damp: she decided she'd change into something dry once she'd eaten. They served up the ex-slaves first: they huddled together, away from the Earthguardians, muttered to one another and tasted the food carefully. Irina was the only one who made any kind of friendly overtures, and even she still seemed nervous. Tally was a bit surprised - she'd have thought hungry, ill-treated slaves would be grateful - but she paid them little attention as she was also trying to work out what the little baby dragon wanted. She refused meat, fish and eggs. When she accepted a bowl of shredded carrot and pickled cabbage, Tally scratched her head in bafflement.
"You're a vegetarian, like Rosemary? How'd you get so big eating food of this kind?" she wondered half out loud. The little creature bleated in enjoyment - it seemed she had never had carrot or anything pickled before. Tally belatedly wondered if she was going to regret the pickled cabbage later on.
"I need to pick you a name. Your colours remind me of flowers, but you're not very dainty, are you? You're more like the Freyja, big and lumbering... I know! I'll name you after a different ship in another story. A living ship. Ophelia. That... doesn't suit you at all, does it?"
But the little dragon gave a happy bleat and headbutted Tally, so Ophelia it was.
The other dragons had been fishing, and returned full and contented. Ellen regurgitated a good Whispering Death-sized mouthful for Haelstrom, which he accepted reluctantly: he had been halfway to jumping off with the others when Eira had asked him how he planned to get back on board. He had remained behind with Jasper, who was munching on some of the ship's ballast. The others curled up to sleep off their meals, which seemed to make the ex-slaves even more nervous, so Tally showed them to the room that had been allocated to them, pointed out the clean, dry clothing and told them to help themselves.
She reported back to Mar and the others: they arranged the watch between them and went to get some sleep. They were due to rendezvous with Hiccup and the Original Riders early the next day: Tally wasn't looking forward to admitting what a mess she'd made at Auction Island, but at least they had some news. Tally was on second watch, so she deposited Ophelia at the foot of her bunk, where she promptly fell asleep with her stumpy legs splayed out in all four directions.
Tally woke to the sound of retching. The little dragon had been sick onto the bedcovers, bringing up a slimy glob of chewed orange goo and vinegary pickle stink. Ophelia stared at the glob for a few moments, then settled down to sleep again, apparently unconcerned.
"I guess the pickles were a bad idea," Tally muttered. She cleaned up the goop with her ragged slave clothes and went to get rid of it.
As she passed the ex-slaves' quarters, she heard muffled voices.
"..don't know what their game is..."
"...seem nice, they've been so kind..."
"...that's what they want you to think..."
"SSH, I heard something..."
Silence fell. Tally listened to the sound of people listening, then moved on, baffled. What on earth was that all about? Shouldn't they be sleeping? Thor knew she was sleepy, and it was only an hour and a half till her watch. She sighed. That was the joy of babies, right?
She threw the goop overboard, where no doubt it would be enjoyed by whatever fish had survived the dragons, dumped the rags in a bucket to soak, and made her way back. Once again, the muttering voices died down when she went past.
Too tired to think about it, she collapsed into bed again, to be woken by Zara and Brasa an hour later to take her watch.
((Hey all, I'm headin out on the choir tour I mentioned earlier. I'll be back at the beginning of next week so it'll be a few days before I can post again. I'll keep tabs on the RP though, and I look forward to reading your posts!))
((Oh god, I've messed up soo bad =/))
((Eira: Sure! You've made a very good point ^^))
((Rue: A very good video. And, duuude. You're editing skills are amazing! X3 Oh, and I'd like to leave Fur’s mum there. She does play a huge part in Fur’s backstory. I just wanted to expand Fur’s backstory in this rp. Great Video!))
((Good Luck on that choir tour Eslig! I wish you all of luck! ^^))
Krystal watched, as the drama went on. Krystal shook her head, hoping that all of that was all just a nightmare. But, it’s not. Krystal clenched her fists, and tucked her eyes closed. Then, Mar spoke up. "Please, have any of you gathered any information that could aide us in the rescue of Eslig and the missing dragons?" "There seems to be some guy who is buying all small and baby dragons that he can get his hands on in the whole archipelago at the moment. In five days, there will be a huge sale for which most of the dragon hunters are preparing right now. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to find out on which island this sale will take place..." Rue followed. "Sounds like our dragons could be there. Does anybody know something about the meeting place?" Krystal then nodded, and sparked a little bit of hope inside Krystal’s heart. Krystal just silently followed the group wherever they go, and wherever she is needed.
Krystal shook her head, trying to get some sleep, she tucked herself tight. She the slammed her head in the pillow. Oh Thor, please help me get some sleep, Krystal blurted out in her mind. With all the whispering and secrecy, she finally blurted out. “STOP WHISPERING!” She blurted out loud, she then taped her hands around her mouth and stood in horror. Oh, Thor, Oh Thor, Oh Thor! She thought, as the door handle started to shake and wriggle around.
((Hey all, I'm back from choir tour. I had a great time and I'm excited to continue RPing. I'll try and get a post in late Wednesday night (depending on HW) but right now I'm struggling with how to write the next chapter of Eslig's story. I'm unsure of where to go from his POV so feel free to PM me with suggestions))
((I'm really unsure of how to write this. I'm out of ideas and don't really see a way for Eslig to get out of this. I hope this isn't too heavy))
Three levels below deck, a long hallway, and one imposing door later Eslig was locked into stocks inside an evil-looking torture room. The instrument forced him to remain standing while removing any and all hope of escape. The room was rank and dark, the creaking boards an ominous reminder of what the room was used for. Two guards stood behind Eslig where he couldn't see them, as if awaiting some secret signal. The door swung open again and Eslig gasped in surprise.
"Miss me?" cackled Maudine. "Because I've been waiting to get one of you Earthguardians down here. Viggo says to break you, so of course he chose me for that honor." She strode forward and slapped Eslig on the face, the blow making Eslig's ears ring. "Let's begin, shall we?"
She signaled to one of the guards, and Eslig winced as a whip cracked over his defenseless back. "Ohh, did that hurt?" cooed Maudine. "There's plenty more where that came from!"
The worst part, Eslig would later reflect, wasn't the phyiscal pain being inflicted on him. The ordeal stretched on for hours, with Eslig being revived with a bucket of scummy saltwater whenever he passed out. No, the worst part was the phycological warfare being simultaneously waged on him. Every time a whip cracked, every time a blow landed, every time Eslig screamed Maudine would remind him that "Your friends abandoned you! You're all alone!" until her voice was hoarse.
Numb with pain, exhaustion, and weariness, Eslig was practically carried back to his cell after Maudine finally called an end to the session. Eslig's every nerve cried out in agony, while his stomach rumbled and his eyelids drooped. Maudine's voice still rang in his ears, a bad bedtime story remidning him how utterly helpless and alone he was until at last he slipped into unconsciousness again. He didn't even notice that the ship had stopped.
On the deck, the crew hauled in the sail and scurried around tying the impressive ship to a dock. Viggo and the Dragon Hunters had arrived on Armorwing Island.
((I wanna move us on to catch up with Eslig but I had some drama I wanted to attend to first. Will do Part Two tomorrow, this is long as it is.))
Tally roamed the decks with Ophelia tucked under her arm. Ellen remained asleep in their spacious room, curled around the bed, but the little dragon had thrown up what was left in her belly shortly after Tally had woken and she had decided that a walk on the deck in the fresh air might do the baby some good. There was no sign of anything anywhere apart from the Night Terrors and Styggy, reunited with Midnight, who was steering.
She stood for a while on the foredeck, letting the wind tangle her hair into knots. Ophelia hummed quietly, apparently content despite everything. The greenish-black sea sloshed gently and the clouds glowed with a pallid softness that suggested dawn was not far off. Tally felt as though nothing could go wrong right now. She yawned loudly.
Ophelia squeaked and wriggled. Tally peered curiously at her, then set her down on the deck. The dragon pulled that concentrating face again, fluttered her tiny wings and rose into the air, setting off slowly and carefully at about knee-height towards the interior of the ship.
As they approached, Tally heard banging. Ophelia, tired of flying, fluttered back and wedged herself back under Tally's arm, and she followed the sound to its source. Two of the ex-slaves were up, they seemed to be rattling on Krystal's door and - were those kitchen knives?
Tally did the first thing that came into her head, which was to bellow "OI! What in Thor's name are you doing?!"
The two men - both medium height and skinny, one black-haired and unshaven, the other a dirty blonde with a hooked nose - turned, startled. They hesitated for a moment and then advanced, slowly, waving their knives in front of them - or was that their hands shaking?
"We've heard all about you! We're not going to be fed to those - those monsters!" the blonde raged. He gesticulated towards Ophelia with his knife, though his hand was definitely shaking. Ophelia bleated cheerfully.
Tally stared at them as if they were both idiots. "Feed who to what? Dragons don't even eat people... except in self defence... but that's different!" She sighed, and started again. "Dragons aren't the vicious, savage creatures we thought they were. Of course, you wouldn't realise that. We didn't, until a few years ago. I mean, look at her - " she pointed to Ophelia, who burped and then gave a sort of gurgling giggle. "She's vegetarian!"
The dark-haired man lowered his knife slightly. "She doesn't look vicious... Irina said - "
"Never mind what Irina said, she's too trusting! We should - "
The man never got to tell his companion what to do. The door swung open suddenly and there was an almighty CLANG! The man with the hooked nose dropped to the floor. The dark-haired man dropped his knife in fright and stepped away from Krystal, who was brandishing a heavy steel helmet ferociously. Behind her, Fur hissed.
The dark-haired man fell to his knees. "P-please don't let it eat me!" he whimpered, eyes closed. Krystal stared down at him, her expression changing from rage to confusion.
"What's going to eat you?" She looked behind her, and realisation dawned. "Fur wouldn't -" She looked back at the man, cowering on the floor. Fur had stopped snarling and was now sniffing him curiously. She caught Tally's eye and, suddenly, they both started laughing.
Tally shooed Fur away gently and knelt down in front of the man. She tucked Ophelia into his arms. The baby dragon sat there, humming away. He opened his eyes and stared down at her. Very carefully, his hand shaking, he patted her head. The humming got louder.
"Like this..." Tally showed him how Ophelia liked to be stroked, from the nape of her neck up the clusters of shallow, stumpy half-formed spines on her back. Ophelia gurgled and drooled a little.
"...I had an old cat when I was a boy that used to do that." He looked up at Tally. "It's not witchcraft, is it?"
"No," Tally replied. "It's understanding."
They grinned at each other, but the moment was broken by an almighty crash from outside, followed by the roar of challenging dragons. Tally, Krystal and the dark-haired man ran outside to see Midnight aflame and Styggy in front of him, brandishing a sword. They were facing off with a yellow dragon that seemed to be shooting fire from three different places.
Tally's stomach dropped into her boots as she recognised the Singetail from the dragon markets. It reared, sniffing the air, and screeched. Leaping aloft, it sailed over Styggy and Midnight and came down again with a bang in front of Tally. She heard the man behind her shriek, Krystal yell and and Fur roar, but the creature ignored all of them hissing savagely at Tally. She ran for an open area of the deck, as far from the rigging as she could get: the raging dragon bounded after her. She stopped and spun to face it, and it reared up, raising its wings and shrieking, sending flames towards the sky, returning the challenge she had issued the previous day.
The noise brought the rest of the clan and the other ex-slaves running: most of them clutched knives. There had obviously been some kind of plan to take the ship, but with the Earthguardians and their dragons awake the slaves gave up and bunched together defensively.
The Earthguardians didn't have much time for them and their revolt. Mar got as close as she could to Tally and barked, "Tally! What's going on?"
"I... I challenged her at the market. For a distraction. 'Course, she was in a cage then..." Tally was backing slowly up from the advancing dragon.
"Can you calm her down, somehow... persuade her you don't want to fight? Most animals don't fight to the death..." Mar yelped and jumped back as the Singetail flung fire from its tail in between her and Tally. Jasper got between Mar and the Singetail, growling, and refused to let her get any closer.
Krystal called out, "Maybe Fur can help - " but before she could get any further, a bluish-purple bolt exploded in the air above them. A sword dropped from the sky and landed next to Tally, along with a pair of metal canisters that clunked onto the deck.
Hiccup and the Original Riders landed at a safe distance. Fishlegs dismounted Meatlug and yelled "Mariella's right! The Singetail won't fight to the death - you just need to match it, flame for flame!"
"Use the sword and the Zippleback gas!" Hiccup yelled.
Tally gingerly picked up the sword. She'd seen him demonstrate it once or twice... Hiccup sort of twisted this bit and did that, and that got the Monstrous Nightmare gel to run down the blade... now where was that button... oh. She nearly scorched her eyebrows off as the sword lit up.
"Careful - the supply of gel is limited! You only get three shots!"
And I've just used one of them, Tally thought. She took a deep breath, spread her arms out in imitation of the dragon and screeched. The dragon reared up and shot flame into the air. The contest had begun.
Tally glanced around and jumped on a handy nearby crate for extra height. She let the Nightmare gel coat the sword, clicked the button and raised it above her head as it whoooshed into flame. She made an approximation of the Singetail's shrieking noise, and stood there like a fiery lemon, hoping the Nightmare gel wasn't going to drip into her hair.
The Singetail reared up again. Tally just had time to dive behind her crate as it jetted flame from the gills on its chest - but she heard a crash and when she popped up she saw the Singetail lying awkwardly on its side. As it struggled to its feet she noticed a streak of dark dragon blood on the deck, and following it back saw the shaft of an arrow poking out of the creature's right haunch, a trail of blood dribbling down its side to its hind leg.
She's hurt! Tally thought. The dragon would tire out quickly, and the placement of the arrow in the muscle between her leg and her hind wing would make flying painful too.
Tally hopped back onto her crate and screeched again. She opened up one of the cans of Zippleback gas, making a cloud in front of her, then clicked the sword. The spark caught the gas and BOOM! Tally was blown clean off the crate, but she climbed back up again, face sooty and eyebrows now very singed.
The tip of the dragon's tail burst into flame: Tally held the sword behind her, waving it in imitation of the dragon's tail, let the gel run and lit it up. The Singetail suddenly arched her tail over her head like a scorpion: Tally matched the movement as best she could. They held their positions: the sword started to burn down, but just as the Nightmare gel ran down, the Singetail's flame went out too.
Tally suspected her last move would be in the air, and she wasn't wrong: the dragon took off awkwardly, her right hind wing beating slightly out of time with the rest, and struggled into the air. Tally felt something wind round her waist: she looked down to see the end of a long, grey-purple tail under her arms. All of a sudden, she was hoisted into the air, level with the hovering Singetail. The yellow dragon let a final burst of orange flame fly, but it was weak: Tally loosed the can of Zippleback gas right at the dragon and the creature dipped to avoid it, twisted its hind wing at an odd angle and crashed down with a cry of pain. Ellen put Tally down and both of them ran to the injured creature. She hissed and dragged herself away on her working legs to hide under a tarp pinned over some more crates: Tally and the healers tried to persuade her to come out but not even an offer of regurgitated fish from Ellen placated her, so eventually Tally left her there, hoping she would emerge once she realised no-one on the boat wanted to hurt her.
Mar and Hiccup were quizzing the ex-slaves: Krystal had gone back and found the stunned would-be rebel leader, and they confessed that they were indeed trying to take over the boat. The blonde slave, whose name was Tomas, was convinced that the slaves were to be fed to Berk's dragons as some kind of weird sacrifice: he kept babbling about torture and calling Hiccup "demon lover" and "evil". The more he ranted, the more some of the others seemed to edge away from him, particularly Irina. Frankly, Tally was too tired and too concerned about the dragon under the tarpaulin to be particularly interested in what their excuses were, but it seemed to have Hiccup worried and Mar looked upset.
She went to clean herself up, but she wasn't going to get any more sleep tonight. Dawn was breaking, and there on the horizon, only a few hours away, were the rocky natural turrets of Armourwing Island.
((Tally, that was a great read!))
((Ugh, writer's block again. I've got a couple ideas but nothing I feel confident enough to act on yet. It's tech week for the show I'm in so I might not get a post out until the weekend/next week))
((So how are we all feeling about the current story arc? It appears that activity is slowing down a little (myself included) so my next post could significantly speed up or extend this plotline if we so choose.
Your thoughts? Is everyone just busy or do we need a new storyline?))
((Mar, I really like where you went with your last post. Don't change it!))
((We've had a few people mention having stuff going on - I'm a bit concerned about leaving people behind, as it were. For anyone waiting to join in - you can jump right in whenever it suits you and pick up where the last post left off, don't feel you have to "catch up" with everything that has already happened!))
((I have to admit, I really enjoyed your creative taking action and moving the plot ahead during the last few weeks, Tally. And haha, I didn't know that hake is a fish btw :-D Also I really liked to read about Sage and the babies, Mar!
Even though I've been quiet, I'm still reading along most of the time. I was pretty busy writing my master's thesis so I wasn't quite in the mood to do some writing besides that. And I kind of feel out of creative ideas for our story right now...))
((Jeeze.. sorry for my absence, guys. I'm gonna read up and get caught up here and try to make a post asap.))
Haelstrom growled menacingly at the dragon hunter, keeping the man at bay. He followed Eira and Tally as they dragged him off, all the while baring his teeth at him threateningly. Eira didn't have to remind him that he can't tear into this one, though he didn't refrain from showing his desire to. She knew it was mostly because he held pent up anger and resentment towards the other dragon hunter he had fought with back at the arena, and having to leave that match unresolved.
When they returned, Mariella and Grandma Hilde were tending to the ex-slaves and the others were preparing to turn in for the night and take watches. It was in that moment that Brasa approached them, and with some coaxing and help from Eira, managed to tend to his wounds. As she looked him over with her keen, knowledgeable eye, she was able to study his old scars and injury. "These old wounds were made by more than just viking weapons. Look," she pointed some of them out. "Bites, claw marks, even some scorching... And this." Brasa attempted to poke and prod at Haelstrom's right wing shoulder but he pulled away with a huff of smoke and a grumble. She grumbled right back at him and pressed her advance, finally getting a chance to feel around the old injury. "No wonder he can't fly... this tendon was torn and never fully healed."
Eira watched and did her best to hold Haelstrom in place, with the help of Brasa's dragons. "That man in the arena... He knew Haelstrom. Called him..." she trailed off, searching her memory for the name, "...Cold.. Coldblood. That was it." Haelstrom rumbled a growl at the name. Eira looked at him apologetically. "Like he was one of their fighting dragons or something, said he was one of their best." She shuddered at the thought and laid a comforting hand on the woolly howl.
"Must have been for quite a long time, then. By these scars and this wound, he's been fighting for a long time, against both vikings and dragons." Brasa looked sadly at Eira. "I don't know if he'll ever be able to fly again."
Eira nodded slowly. "I think Hael's already come to terms with that." She gave the older woman a grateful, albeit waning smile as she patted her shoulder and moved off. She sat with him for a long while as they ate before the two retired for the night until it was their watch, stopping off on deck to check on Driftwood. The young timberjack was still growing but he took up quite a bit of space as it was and didn't like the feeling of being crowded below deck, so he kept up top, hanging from the masts. After rubbing some of Rue's ointment on Haelstrom's shoulder (a practice she had gotten used to doing regularly), Eira climbed up to join Driftwood as he hung like a hammock between the two masts. She curled up on his chest, feeling the rise and fall and the warmth of his inner fire, warding off the cold of the night and lulling her to sleep. As she lay there, she looked up at the cloudy dark sky as some of the clouds broke up a little after the hard downpour they had earlier that evening. With a soft, curious frown, she squinted her eyes at something. She could have sworn she saw something blue and silvery darting between the clouds, high up. But she was too tired to ponder it further as she drifted off, Haelstrom curled up beneath them in the open spaces of the deck.
Their slumber didn't seem to last long as a sudden roar and loud commotion jerked her awake. She went flailing off the side of her timberjack hammock, but Haelstrom leapt up to catch her. Driftwood shook himself free of his perch and roared back at the singetail as Tally came running up, followed by all the others. And... some of the ex-slaves wielding knives? They looked shaken up already, even before the challenging singetail arrived. Eira watched in awe as Tally took up Hiccup's sword and matched the singetail move for move, soaking it up as a learning experience. She was still fairly new to the dragon trainer and rider bid. It was fascinating and remarkable. But as they finally calmed the singetail down somewhat, it became apparanent that it was injured. As the healers tried to tend to it, Mariella and Hiccup conversed with the ex-slaves, some of which had some very wild beliefs about the dragon riders.
As Eira approached, Haelstrom nearly lunged at one with a knife, growling at him. But Eira jumped in front of him to stop him, holding him back. "Where would you ever get an idea like that?" she asked. Hael finally backed down, grumbling as he observed the ex-slaves as mere annoyances and not worth his time.
((I thought I recalled that we said Brasa did come along, and figured I could have her make an appearance. If this isn't the case, I can easily change it to Rue. Also like the idea of the believing all these wild stories about the dragon riders. ^^ It makes sense, hehe. I'm quite enjoying this storyline and wouldn't mind continuing it as we are.))
((Glad you're back, Eira!))
Eslig awoke to the sensation of a small tongue repeatedly licking his face. The tongue stopped as he groaned and stirred slightly, struggling slowly to his knees. Eslig blinked a couple times as he scanned his cell, finding it empty. A small patch of air on the ground next to him shimmered to reveal a baby Changewing that looked familiar. Mistletoe waved her antennae and scuttled toward the cell door. Sage, Mar's old Smokebreath, was peering in while Autumn and Fall kept both heads on the lookout for guards.
Eslig stared hollowly at the strange rescue mission. The Changewing was hissing insistently at him from the base of the door, apparently the bars of the cell were too smooth for it to climb and it wanted a lift up to the lock. Eslig watched its efforts for a minute before sighing and turning his back on the would-be rescuers. From the doorway, Autumn and Fall squeaked a warning and the dragons melted away into the bowels of the ship.
Seconds later, Maudine grinned down at him through the bars. "I'm glad you're feeling better" she crooned. "I promise that your accomodations will be better from now on. Come, let's get your wounds looked at. We've got a talented healer aboard. Oh, I'm so glad that you've decided to join us. Your former friends will be in for such a nice surprise!
Wordlessly, Eslig followed Maudine out of his cell and up onto the deck of the ship.
((So, plot twist! I've been toying with this idea for a bit and IMO the transition feels a little clunky, I hope to make some details clearer going forward. I probably won't get time to write again until Thursday night, at least that gives me time to think!))
Worried for her friend, but although amazed, Rue watched the unusual competition between Tally and the strange Singetail unfold. Whatever that fire sword was that Hiccup had dropped for Tallyra, it was amazing! Rue held her breath when Ellen finally rose into the sky and it took one last blow with the sword from Tally to bring the already hurt Singetail down. Hissing at everyone who tried to get closer, it escaped under a tarp. Rue followed Brasa and Tally over to the hurt dragon but there was no chance to tend to her wounds. The Singetail was almost completely hidden under her "tent", only a snarling head appearing every now and then that kept them away from her. Since she didn't want to miss out on the discussion between Mar, the original dragon riders and the ex-slaves that seemed to be going on on the other side of the ship, Rue gave up getting closer to the hurt dragon after a few minutes and handed two clean bandages and a jar of ointment to Tally. She knew her clanmate would come back later and try again to take care of the Singetail.
From what she could catch before the discussion died down to other topics, the slaves had heard some odd rumours about Berk and it's dragon riders. Rue looked at Irina und Ivan. They both didn't seem to quite agree with the leader of the planned uproar but there was still a bit of a doubt left on their faces. It would take some time to get all of them used to dragons and the Berkian way of training them. And Rue wasn't sure if they would have the time to do that before arriving at Armourwing island. There were things to discuss that were more important right now.
Hiccup, Toothless, Fishlegs and Astrid had settled on some wooden planks. In a few words, Mar explained to them what they had experienced on Auction island. Hiccup didn't seem to be surprised when he heard about the upcoming big dragon sale on Armourwing island. Apparently, the information was widespread across the archipelago and he had learned about it already. While Mar spoke, the rest of the Earthguardians and also the ex-slaves gathered around. Irina and her comrades listened attentively while more and more people spoke up.
"We can't sail into Armourwing island's harbor just like that after we literally blew off Auction island. Everyone knows us by now." Styggy chipped in. Grandma Hilde nodded.
"Hiccup, what did you guys find out? Do you have any information that can help us?"
"Eslig might still be on Auction island. We have to go looking for him!"
"Maybe the dragon hunters took him off the island as a prisoner? He could be everywhere by now."
After some time of listening, Hiccup waved with his arms. "Alright, alright. Give me some time to think that through..." Reflectively, Hiccup frowned while some of the Earthguardiand were still excitedly chatting among themselves. They needed a plan. A good one...
((What if we used the ex-slaves and captain Hake somehow? The Earthguardians could blackmail the captain to act as if everything was fine. He could take the ex-slaves with him on the island who could act as, well, his slaves, and they could gather important information while Earthguard and the original riders are following some other plan?))
((I just had an idea :-)))
With Hiccup deep in thoughts and the rest of them planning and waiting for some good idea to come up, Rue slowly went over to the railing. Fishlegs was standing there ,staring into the water and it looked like something down there was intriguing him. She followed his gaze and her mouth dropped open. "Woow", she whispered. Rubinesse had never seen Sliquifiers from up so close. About 20 meters away from the ship, the water was stirred up from below the surface by an entire group of mostly blueish-green and purple silhouettes, which were so fast that she could barely make out single individuals. Like darts the tidal class dragons agitatedly swam around as if they were chasing something.
"That's amazing! What are they doing in this part of the ocean?" Fishlegs said, rather to himself. "Sliquifiers are quite sensitive. They must be aware of something big coming up at Armourwing island and normally, they would flee from dragon hunter ships into deeper parts of the ocean. Besides, this is Scauldron territory. These Sliquifiers have no reason to turn up here in such great numbers while their natural predator could be just around the corner. ...Hm, unless..." Rue curiously waited for him to continue. Fishlegs scratched his chin reflectively. "In early spring, when the first snow starts to melt, on some islands the underground cave systems are flooded with meltwater. That causes blindfish and ozark cave fish to be flushed out into the sea. Sliquifiers which simply love those cave fish, sometimes migrate long distances to get to these special places where the fish are carried to. This only lasts for a couple of days every year. Hahaa, I can't believe I'm able to see that! I gotta tell Hiccup..."
While Fishlegs hurried over to his friends and started to spread the news, Rue remained on the railing and watched the group of dragons. She admired their speed and how graceful they moved in the water. She would have loved to see more of them but unfortunately, the water was dark and a bit troubled, so she could only make out those that came up to the surface. Some of her friends and even some ex-slaves curiously came over and joined her on the railing.
"That sounds like some tough luck to be flushed out into the ocean if you're blind anyway. Haha, we totally have to try this out!" Tuffnut was excited. "Come on, let's blindfold me with a scarf or so. That'll be so awesome. Almost as good as Yaknog sliding."
"Yeah right. I wanna see your face after you've been flushed into some rocks, hehe." Ruffnut replied.
Some of the ex-slaves looked at the twins as if they were insane and Rue and some others wondered what Yaknog sliding was, but noone cared, or rather dared, to ask.
"Arrr...you're not being flushed anywhere, Tuff. What we need is a real plan." Hiccup interrupted them impatiently. But suddenly, his expression changed. "Haha, no... in fact, this is genious! Well done, Tuff!" He laughed out loud which made some of the ex-slaves flinch back a little. Was he the crazy guy after all that they had been told he was?
Hiccup explained: "If the cave fish can get out into the ocean, that means that there must be tunnels through which not only they can get out, but also we might be able to get into the island unnoticed. If Armourwing island has similar large underground cave systems like Berk or the Iron Isle we and our dragons can get inside and start our next steps hidden below the surface. We just have to find out somehow if there are tunnels that are large enough for our dragons to swim through..."
"And some air for us to breath every now and then might be a good thing, too!" Snotloud added sarcastically, gesticulating wildly.
"We still gotta think this through..." Hiccup nodded.
((Great idea, Rue! Sounds like something the Riders would do.))
((Edit: Added a post)
***Three days after the events of my last post***
Blinking against the bright sun, Eslig exited the captain's cabin and stepped onto the deck. He rolled his shoulders and stretched, glad to be away from the uncomfortable wooden chair. This movement caused significantly less pain than the previous two days, and Eslig could tell that his body was beginning to recover from his brutal interrogation session with Maudine. Bruises were fading away and the cuts with them, although the memories of the event still sent shivers through him.
For the most part, Eslig could do what he liked aboard the ship. Viggo was rapidly finding out how little Eslig knew about the capabilities of the Riders, so less and less of Eslig's time was spent being questioned by the Dragon Hunter leader. This freed him up to explore the ship, albiet under constant watch from two guards assigned to him for his "protection". There were only a few doors that were closed to Eslig, the most significant being the one leading down to where the dragons were kept.
Today, the ship was a bustle of activity as the auction date neared. Maudine was previewing the auction site and overseeing the crew as they built a large rectangular platform from which to show the "merchandise". It looked out over a set of hastily-constructed wooden bleachers and tents. Sensing profit, a small marketplace full of shady characters and even shadier goods had sprung up around the auction site. Ships large and small arrived at all hours of the day and night, some bearing goods and others with empty cargo holds. The market was busy, but there was the hum of expectation in the air as vikings stopped to admire the massive wooden platform.
The platform was nestled against the opening of a cave system that would house the caged dragons before the auction. Maudine explained that not only would this increase suspense among the buyers (by hiding the "merchandise" until the last possible second), it would also allow the Dragon Hunters to clean and reprovision their ship. The auction itself was scheduled tomorrow, with the first item going to auction at noon.
The setting and time thus set, the ship buzzed with life. As Eslig watched, a section of the port side of the hull swung down to become a massive ramp, and the first of dozens of cages was unloaded.
"How do we even know that those cave fish came from Armourwing island?" Snotloud went on. "We are so far out on the sea that I can't see any island on the horizon, the fish could come from any island around."
"Armourwing is the closest island right now. In fact, if we go on like this, it will appear on the horizon any minute. Maybe we should slow down a bit. We don't want to get too close for now..." Grandma Hilde replied. Her voice trailed off when she turned and started signaling the Night Terror Crew to slow down the pace of the ship.
Mar suddenly spoke up. "I think that's an excellent idea, Hiccup, But none of us have tidal class dragons... Are Whispering Death good swimmers? Perhaps Gothic could go scout ahead and see if he can find a way in. Or we could try to train the Sliquifiers..."
Rue silently nodded and tried to think about a way to get into the caves. She looked over her shoulder. Gothic was curled up and had been relaxing on deck, but when he heard his name, he lifted his big round head and looked over to them. A little worried, Rue looked back at him for a moment.
"I'm not sure... Gothic is a good swimmer for a non-tidal class dragon. It's possible that he could do it, but I don't know if I could hold my breath long enough..." From the sound of an excited teeth whirl she could tell that Gothic had come over to perticipate in the planning. Two of the ex-slaves shrieked a litte and jumped out of his way. Mar's words to them earlier seemed to have calmed some of them down, but there were still two or three who looked quite on the edge when any of the dragons got too close to them.
"Toothless and I will go. We've been practicing under water manouvers during the last few weeks." Toothless first looked at Hiccup sceptically, but then he seemed to accept reluctantly. But noone around looked too convinced either by Hiccup's suggestion.
((I thought, Hiccup suggesting to go with Toothless could make sense. I left it quite open so you can still decide how to go on. I think I'd rather let Hiccup go and discover the caves without any big fuss around it, so we can continue with the story. But feel free to change the plot if you have other ideas. Unfortunately, I won't have access to internet for the next 1,5 weeks, that's why I didn't let Rue take much action right now. You can make Gothic follow Hiccup and Toothless on their cave discovery though, if you want to. Happy easter everyone! :-) ))
Tally returned to the deck, Ellen in tow, just as the Sliquifiers appeared. She collected Ophelia from the ex-slave - his name was Karl - and watched the beautiful dragons dart between the waves, their scales shimmering in the morning light.
She listened to Hiccup and Fishlegs start to plan. Mar said, "I think that's an excellent idea, Hiccup, But none of us have tidal class dragons... Are Whispering Death good swimmers? Perhaps Gothic could go scout ahead and see if he can find a way in. Or we could try to train the Sliquifiers..."
Rue nodded and studied her dragon as if looking for ideas.
"I'm not sure... Gothic is a good swimmer for a non-tidal class dragon. It's possible that he could do it, but I don't know if I could hold my breath long enough..."
Gothic wiggled over to her, whirring his teeth excitedly. A couple of slaves whimpered and scattered.
Hiccup nodded at Rue's words and said, "Toothless and I will go. We've been practicing under water manouvers during the last few weeks." Toothless looked less than impressed, but made an assenting noise. The twins high-fived, but Fishegs looked nervous and Snotlout said "Uh - excuse me? Stoker class dragon over here? Hookfang isn't gonna want to swim!"
Tally piped up, "Perhaps we don't need to hold our breath. These two -" she pointed to Ellen and Gothic - "can dig through solid rock."
Hiccup stared at Tally as if she'd just appeared on the deck out of nowhere, then nodded slowly. "Yeah, that could work. Toothless and I can scout out a tunnel that's close to the water level and the Whispering Deaths can enlarge it. That's all we'd need. I'll head over at low tide and scout it out. Astrid will come with me. Mariella, do you or one of your clan members want come with us?"
Tally took a hasty step back and hugged Ophelia to her chest. Not only did she have two... well... one and a half sickly dragons to worry about, she was a terrible swimmer. Hiccup smirked.
"Not you then, huh? Any other volunteers?"
The unloading stretched on into the late morning, with cage after cage being taken from the bowels of the Dragon Hunter ship. The pace of the unloading varied with the size and temperment of the dragon being transported, with a gaggle of gronkles going rather quietly, and a massive typhoomerang taking several minutes to unload. Finally, all the large dragons were unloaded and smaller cages began appearing. One cage in particular caught Eslig's eye.
"Wait!" he yelled, scrambling down onto the dock and over to where two burly hunters were carrying a cage. "You can't take that one! Maudine said--"
"To sell those dragons, too" Maudine finished for him, sweeping in with a sickly sweet smile. "No hard feelings, I hope. It's just... business."
Eslig stared at her, stunned. Beside him in the cage, Septimus and the other captured babies wriggled excitedly at the sound of a friendly voice. "But you promised they wouldn't be sold!" he accused Maudine, who simply shook her head in disappointment. Eslig balled his fists as hot anger washed over him, while Maudine simply sighed.
"If these fools hadn't been so careless, you'd have been none the wiser. Poor little rider, so easily swayed when your precious dragons are put in danger."
Maudine got no further. WIth a cry of rage, Eslig launched himself at her. The action caught Maudine off guard and Eslig succeeded in knocking her down. For a brief moment he was atop her, blindly throwing punches. The guards behind Eslig came to Maudine's defense, raining blows and dragging Eslig off a furious Maudine. They pinned Eslig's arms behind him while Maudine slowly wiped a trickle of blood off her face, vengeance burning in her eyes. She drew back her fist to strike Eslig, but a smooth voice stopped her.
"Enough of that" said Viggo. "I take it the rider learned about our little scheme?" the Dragon Hunter leader chuckled at the explression on Maudine's face. "I won't let you kill him. He may still be of some use to us, but keeping him in the caves with the dragons won't work. Better to keep him separate. I don't think Hiccup will risk splitting his forces. Tie the boy to the mast so he has to watch his friends' failed resuce attempt. Perhaps that will take the wind out of his sails..."
Laughing at his own joke, Viggo swept off to oversee the final preparations for the next day's auction. Maudine waited until he was a suitable distance away before channeling all her frustrations into a single punch that knocked the wind out of Eslig. Gasping for air, he was dragged back onto the ship and tied to the main mast, facing the ominous wooden platform. He was secured with thick wooden rope that encircled his body from soulders to knees and quashed any hope of escape. A gag tied around his head kept him from making all but the most muted sounds.
Miserable and defeated, Eslig slumped against the rope.
((I'm not really sure what I'm doing, but this was the only way I could think to justify Eslig switching sides voluntarily. Now, of course, he needs a rescue, but I for a little while I wanted to explore what a "turned" Eslig might look like. Unable to come up with any ideas, I decided to turn him back again. Sorry for any confusion, I've had a hard time thinking of anything interesting lately
Also, don't feel like we have to rush the auction. It can be "postponed" due to weather or something, it seems as if we only have a couple active RPers and Rue is without internet for the next week or so. We can take our time planning/executing a rescue mission here.))
Tally sat propped up against a crate on the deck, Ophelia on her lap, cutting pieces of dried fish and throwing them into the void beneath a tarpaulin. A snuffling, grunting noise from beneath told her that they were going down well.
Two days into their stop at Armourwing Island, the Singetail had become too ill to move, and Tally and Brasa had been able to peel back the tarp and get in to treat the dragon's injury. She had screeched with outrage when they had removed the arrowhead and drained the wound, but she had allowed Tally to change the bandages and clean the wound this morning before hissing at her and nosing the tarp back into place. Tally had started to call her Iskierka, after another troublesome fictional dragon.
Across the deck, Hiccup and Rue landed on Toothless and Gothic: Ellen came down behind them and wiggled across to Tally to check on their new charges. Ophelia slowly raised her head, her eyes glassy, and bleated a weak greeting before letting her head sink back onto the towel across Tally's knees. Fishlegs had been helping Tally experiment with her food and they had discovered that a small quantity of dragon nip allowed her to keep her food down, but it made her sleepy and listless... and also made her drool a lot.
"How are our patients doing?" Rue asked as she crossed the deck. Hiccup followed her: he and Astrid were taking a surprising amount of interest in little Ophelia's welfare considering everything else they had to worry about, though they both regarded Iskierka as a bit of a liability. Tally had to admit they had a point as a ball of flame puffed from under the tarp and Hiccup and Rue skittered sideways.
"That one's doing a lot better. This one - " Tally indicated Ophelia - "well, there's not much change. I think once this is over we're going to have to find that island and those herbs you talked about."
Hiccup crouched down and stroked the little dragon's head. "Don't worry, little girl, we'll figure this out." She bleated softly again and nuzzled his hand: an involuntary grin spread across his face for a moment. Then he straightened up. "We should be ready to go tomorrow. I need to talk strategy - have you seen Mariella?"
"She's up on the foredeck studying the charts of Auction Island. I think Astrid was there too."
Hiccop strode off, leaving Tally with Rue. The healer looked worried. "I think we're going to need every Rider tomorrow, Tally. Are you going to be able to leave these two?"
"Yeah, I thought of that. Karl has agreed to babysit. He even offered to feed Iskierka, although he seemed less enthusiastic about that."
Rue chuckled. "At least we'll have all hands on deck. I'll go and let Mar know - she was worried you wouldn't be able to make it."
Tally sighed. "I know I haven't been much help lately. I'm sorry for that. I'll come with you - it's about time I took an interest in everything else that's going on." She scooped up Ophelia, got to her feet and followed Rue to the foredeck, where the Original Riders and the rest of Earthguard had assembled.
((I thought I'd nudge the timeline on a bit to catch us up with Eslig. I shall be in Italy for the next couple of weeks, so may not have much opportunity to post. Hopefully I've left it open enough that people can either "catch up" with what they've been up to while Tally nurses sick dragons or take the plot on ahead if they want to.))
((Italy. Wow! Travel safely!))
Eslig had given up trying to get free of the thick rope that held him to the main mast of Viggo's ship. Instead, he watched with growing concern as dragon hunters scurried to and fro, finalizing the preparations for tomorrow's auction. Eslig didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter; he was tied facing the island and the massive wooden podium. Out at sea, quiet rumbles of thunder rolled across the water.
The day was drawing to a close when big, fat raindrops began to fall. The rain slowly intensified as a storm moved in, lashing the island with curtains of wind and water. Eslig coughed and spluttered against the weather, unable to shield himself from it, but the storm also brought a halt to the auction preparations as dagon hunters ran for shelter. The rain was cold and the wind only made it colder as it blew across Eslig's sodden clothes and skin.
Lightning and thunder added to the chaos as the storm slammed into Armorwing Island. Rain fell steadily throughout the night, turning the island into a mess of mud and water. Anytime Eslig caught a glimpse of Maudine or Viggo they were scowling, and Eslig realized that the storm was wreaking havoc with the auction. The wooden platform was off-balance, one end lower than the other as it sunk into the watery ground.
With this in mind Eslig willed Thor to continue, knowing that despite the discomfort the storm was causing him it was at least delaying the dragon hunters.