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.