The Secret Symbol - Chapter 40 and 41: "Gut Feeling" and "Practice Drills"

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httyyd
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Something came over the week end and week start starting on Thursday that I had to devote a lot of my time too.  Plus I already had something planned for Thursday all day and Saturday all day.  But when I traveled places and did not drive, I wrote my chapters.  I got one of them done and nearly a second and today I finished the second one.  I'm in the mood to write a third, so I will work on that the rest of tonight and see if I can get it posted late tonight and if not tomorrow then.

 

I hope you enjoy these chapters.

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Links to my chapters are below along with links to my other five fan-fics.

 

The Mystery of Shadow Mountain

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Chapter 48 - Four's Company, Six's a Crowd

The Mystery of Shadow Mountain, my sixth fan-fic in three years!  Updates every Friday Night!

 

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Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic, The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

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

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

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

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

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

Here are links to my sequel fan-fic:

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

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

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

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

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

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Here are links to my Tri-quel fan-fic:

Thoughts of Guilt

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

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

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

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

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

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

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

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

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

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

Chapter 47    Chapter 48

 

 

 

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Chapter 40

Gut Feeling

         I am usually aware of basically everything going on, but as soon as we got back to Mystery and telling Asvord my idea, I completely zoned out.  Next thing I know, I find myself at Icestorm Island, waking up the next morning to the sounds of movement.

         “Hi Jarl,” came Asvord’s voice.

         Rubbing my eyes, I became aware of where exactly I am.  They must have come here and set up camp in the tunnel caves of Icestorm.  Asvord is checking her saddlebags.

         “What?” I said noticing Asvord’s slightly solemn tone.  “No remark of how big of a sleepy head I am?”

         Asvord chuckled and walked over to me as I stood up from the ground, “I wasn’t sure if you were ready for it.”

         Asvord proceeded to hug me, I hugged her back whispering, “I miss her.”

         I closed my eyes for a moment and opened them up to another sound in front of me.

         The door opened and in walked, “Dad, Mom.  What are you doing here?”

         Mother answered, “We came here to support our son.”

         Father added, “Asvord sent Smoky back to Berk to tell Dagmar to meet you guys at Icestorm Island, but Asvord added a few more things she thought of that would help out.”

         “I think they are,” I smiled.

         Father questioned, “Did I just see you two hugging each other.”

         “Who us?” I countered.

         “No, no,” Asvord kind of pushed me away.  “This… no.  We just ‘happened’ to walk into each other and…”

         “And we thought since we already ran into each other we might as well hug,” I finished.

         “Yeah,” Asvord agreed giving a slight smile, I returned the same type of smile.

         Mother nodded, “Ah huh,” like that was so what we were actually doing.

         Asvord then walked out of the room, mother walked over to a table to light a lamp, and father walked over to me.  With the extra lighting in the room, I saw that I am in an actual building, not a cave tunnel

         Father said as soon mother came over, “How are you holding up?”

         Sighing, I said, “I’m doing ok.  I am not okay, obviously.  But I am ok, if you get what I am saying.”

         Mother than stated, “You do know I know exactly what you are going through.”

         “Oh, yeah,” I replied, forgetting that you can sometimes take things for granted.  “Good ‘ol Dad was not here.  There seems like there is a joke there somewhere I can poke fun at, but I just woke up and can’t think straight right now.”

         “Good to see your sense of humor is still there,” declared mother chuckling.

         “See,” I said pointing at her.  “I did not even have a punch line, and I still got a laugh.”

         Mother did that laugh where you just grunt or breathe rough through your nose and she rolled her eyes.

         “Svana,” said father.  “You go on out and get ready, I’ll get Jarl ready.”

         Mother hugged me and told me she is glad I feel at least okay.

         When she closed the door, father told me to sit on a chair; he pulled up one for himself, sitting on it backwards, but facing me, he asked, “Speaking seriously, how are you holding up?”

         Wondering when that question would have been asked of me, I replied, “Seriously speaking, I really do feel okay.”

         Father was about to counter with something, but I immediately continued, “Let me finish.  I’m not saying that just to make you or even me feel better, but you know how you have talked to me about going with your gut instinct?”

         “Yeah,” replied father.

         “Well,” I answered.  “My gut is telling me Annabeth is still alive.”  I got up from my seat and turned back to take a few steps.  “I don’t know why, how, or where I get this feeling, but my gut instinct is telling me Annabeth is still alive.”

         “By what I heard Asvord and the others report, there is hardly a way possible for Annabeth to have survived the fall; adding the fact that Vixxen said what she said… then again… whatever she says must be taken with a ship load of salt,” Father spoke.  “But can you describe this feeling you are having?”

         Taking a moment to think because it is difficult to explain, “Giving this a specific description, I cannot think of it.  But just simply explaining it, I feel Annabeth is alive as if she is right next to me, but I do not see her.  Similar to the energy you feel when static charged and hair stands up, you feel the energy before you get shocked.  I feel this feeling in my gut mainly, but I feel it all over.  I don’t feel bad or sick, but I feel bad and sick because of what happened.”

         “So,” father concluded what he thought of what I said as I turned around.  “You have a mix of emotions that are basically all canceling each other out.  You are left with a feeling of unstable stability.  You are balanced on one foot standing on a ball and you are perfectly still.  Yet you notice you are standing on a ball with one foot and wonder why are you not struggling to keep your balance.”

         “Yeah,” I agreed.  “The more I think of it the odder it gets.”

         My father walked over to me to give me a quick hug, “I know you want Annabeth to be alive.  I want Annabeth to be alive.  Everyone wants her to be alive.  You need to prepare for sure either way.  Also, I want you to know by what I have taught you in your studies, nothing is impossible.  Everything can be accomplished, you just have to figure out what way that is.  This particular way may only be found one way, but if you don’t give up, don’t give in, you will eventually find it.  Sometimes there are unknowns and variables you don’t take into consideration when you are certain something happened a certain way.  Then taking those into consideration, it turns out you were completely wrong.”

         Father walked me over to the door and added, “Those unknowns and variables became apparent after I met your mom.”

         Opening the door, mother is walking by with her dragon, “What was that you were just saying?”

         Caught off guard, father replied, “What was what I was saying?”

         “That’s what I thought,” mother said continuing on.

         As soon as mother walked on ahead, my father’s eyes widened, and he breathed a sigh of relief.

         As we walked away from the building, I noticed it is Mildew’s house.  I am not sure if I should be creeped out or thankful.  Fredrick was nearby and ran up behind me to my right side.  Being glad to see him, I rubbed him a few times.  Walking down the hill and to a slight left, I saw a large group of dragons and vikings.

         “Hiccup.  Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout, Ruff, Tuff,” I stand amazed at who is here.  “Mulch, Bucket.  Gobber, Spitelout,” I then saw a figure walk out from behind the group, “Stoick.”

         A moment passed while I did not know what to say, but Asvord did, “Ah, you remember everyone’s name.”

         Smiling, closing my eyes, and tilting my head down for a moment, then lifting it back up, I replied, “And you are?  Seems like I know you.  Have you ever been to Breakneck Bog?  Maybe you just have one of those faces.”

         “If you keep that up you won’t have a face,” Asvord rebutted.

         “Save it for the drill,” Hiccup said.

         I asked, “What drill?”

         Hiccup continued, “To help you prepare for Vixxen and her goons, we set up an infiltration drill with the premise of rescuing someone.”

         Tuffnut, from the neck of his half of Barf and Belch, put his right fist into his left palm and declared, “Yeah, and Hiccup said we don’t have to hold back; full contact drill.”

         Ruff added, “An we will show no mercy,” she ended with an “evil” chuckle.

         “Maybe it was not the best idea to bring the ‘Loki’ Twins along,” Astrid folded her arms.  “But at least they’ll make the drill realistic enough, because you’ll have to be on your toes.”

         Snotlout summed up the Twins, “That and they might even start fighting us, if we are not careful.  We will have to stay on our toes.”

         “True,” Astrid sighed.

         Stoick stepped forward to stand in front of me, “As soon as we heard what happened, we all wanted to show our spport for you.  Some of us may have not shown the same for Annabeth because of where she was born, even I am guilty of that.  But vikings are set in their ways and stubborn to change.  We just need time and to see that we are wrong,” Stoick looked at his son.

         “Ever since Annabeth arrived on Berk, I have continually heard great things about her.  Hiccup made a point of it to tell me how you guys were doing and to say how each of you are.  Probably to show that Annabeth, Cazi, and now Dawn, are serving as true vikings will,” Stoick went on.  “And when we hear some so-called viking made an attack on our own, we all want to help.”  Stoick then proceeded to address the whole crowd while still talking to me, “A chief protects his own.”

         Stoick looked at me whit the upmost respect and slightly smiled.  He nodded at me.  I nodded back.

         Gobber walked over and added, “I hear you and your friends want to do this mission on your own.  No outside help to speak of and even going into the belly of the beast with only a few vikings around you.”

         “Yep,” I responded.  “This is something I… We must do on our own.  I am no chief, but we protect our own.  Plus, Vixxen called us out to do so.  Also, going in with a smaller group is more on the side of strategy than just simply intentional.  Because if we play along with Vixxen, she will be better to deal with.  For sure, she is expecting us to turn and fight her at some point, but playing along until the point when she least expects us to, that is what we need to do.  But first making sure her hostage is okay.”

         Stoick said, “As much as I would like to be alongside you clashing Dragon Hunter noggins together,” he cracked his knuckles.  “I can understand your decision.”

         Gobber poked Stoick, “You would probably go in it alone, if you knew you could.”

         “Yes,” agreed Stoick.  “By the sound of it, I could wreck the place even before I got started,” Stoick chuckled.  “But remember, Jarl, a viking is only as strong as the vikings and friends he has standing next to him.”

         “That’s why I will have Cazi, Asvord, Dawn, and Lilah with me,” I said.  “Cazi and Asvord for support, Dawn for her being Dawn, and Lilah because her and Vixxen just do not like each other even though they are from the same island.”

         Lilah came over and I gave a short introduction.  I did not explain everything, but enough to inform Stoick and the others who did not know Lilah.  I also mentioned Dawn as well.

         “Any viking that is an enemy of this Vixxen,” declared Stoick.  “Is a friend and ally of Berk.  I’m sure by now, you know, that if you need any help, Jarl and Hiccup’s teams will be glad to help.”

         “Thank you, Great Chief,” Lilah said.  “I want you to know that it is an honor to finally meet Stoick the Vast.”  Stoick nodded.

         “So,” I stated, rubbing my hands together ready for action.  “What’s the drill going to be?”

         “You are your team that you pick will infiltrate the inner caves which will act as Vixxen’s home base,” Hiccup relayed.  “Those who are left not on your team will act as stand in goons.  The rest of us will do the same.  Dagmar will portray Vixxen in this case as Dagmar’s Snoggletog Wraith is as close as we can get to a Snow Wraith.  While we go get ready, you choose who you want for your team.”

         Hiccup and the rest entered the Icestorm caves, others flew over top, and some more stayed outside.  My friends and I, including my parents, walked out closer to the shoreline to pick my team.

         Father spoke, “Before you start, Jarl, your mother and I wanted you to know we are going with you on your trip to Verndari Island.  We don’t have to go in with you on your infiltration, but we want to at least be in your back-up team.”

         “Thank you,” I said appreciatively.  “Alright.  Like I said before, I want Cazi, Asvord, Dawn, and Lilah with me.  Cazi and Asvord, I want you right by my side at all times.  Lilah, I just want you to get Vixxen irritated, but not too much she gets over irritated.  I just need her irritated enough.”

         “That will be easy,” Lilah put her hands on her hips.

         I continued, “Dawn, I want you to hang back.  If I am allowed to send one person after Heather -who is the person being held by Vixxen- I want you to go after her.  I have confidence in your skills that if you can break her out and get her to safety you can.  But I only want you to do that if it is a certainty.  No sense getting you both captured.  The way I expect Vixxen to act is we will be her guests on her island… at least for the start.  Don’t expect her hospitality to last long.”

         Mother asked, “Where do you want the rest of us?”

         “Mom, Dad, Elsa, Ashley, Meen, Garth, Explod, Hyrith, Hattori, Ali, and Angie,” I counted off.  “I want you guys to travel with us, but as we approach the island, I want you guys to hang back and let us go in the rest of the way.  Tail us, though, the rest of the way in, either at a distance or high above us near the clouds.  Once you see us land, find a place to land and just be close enough if you hear or see trouble starting.  I am half expecting this to be a trap, but not sure because Vixxen is predictable in her unpredictability.  If you see Vixxen’s vikings moving in after we’ve been in with Vixxen for a while, start to move in as well.  But don’t all of you go in at once.  When Vixxen tries to trap us and you trap them, there could be another trap set for the trap.”

         “Elsa, Ashley, Meen, Ali, and Angie,” I counted off again.  “I want you to hang back while my parents and the boys go in after us.  You girls stay hidden and concealed for as long as you can.  If fighting starts after my parents’ group goes, then join in when you think you can.  If we have been in there for several hours, at least but between three and four hours, I want my parents’ group to go ahead and go on in, dragons blazing.  Once they go, give them a few seconds to a couple minutes head start and you girls follow them in to cut off any reinforcements Vixxen sends their way.  You guys got it?”

         Everyone nodded and said they did.

         “Well,” I declared.  “Let’s see how it goes in the drill.”

 

Chapter 41

Practice Drills

         My group got set up just how I wanted.  We also put our weapons on to make it as realistic as possible.  The statement had been made that if any fighting does break out, we will not kill anyone.  Mainly that is for the Twins.  But for the rest of us, protective padding has been put on all of our sharp surfaces so we can still go full speed and not have to worry about hurting anyone.  If we all fight how we can, then none of us will get hurt because we are all that good; we will know when to let up.

         My parents with the rest stayed back on a sea stack in Icestorm’s harbor.  Cazi, Asvord, Dawn, Lilah, and I walked back over to the entrance of the main cave and saw Mulch and Bucket standing guard, Mulch on the left and Bucket on the right.

         “Halt!” yelled Mulch.  “Who goes there?”

         Bucket instead answered, “That’s Jarl, Mulch.  You know who they are.”

         “Bucket, how many times do I have to tell you,” Mulch said slightly under his breath and out the side of his mouth.  “This is a drill.  We are acting like the bad guys now.”

         “Bad guys?” echoed Bucket.  “Why are we acting badly towards Jarl?  I thought he was our friend?”

         Sighing, rolling his eyes, and shaking his head, Mulch ignoring Bucket, continued, “You may not enter this cave.  You must leave.”

         Holding my hands in front of me, I returned, “Vixxen is expecting us.”

         For a second Mulch was going to ask a question, so I whispered a reminder, “Dagmar is expecting us.”

         “Oh, oh, oh, yes,” Mulch replied and then said in his “evil” viking voice.  “Well, then follow me.  Do not try anything funny, or it will not end will for you.”

         Mulch led us into the caves.  Upon entering them, I saw Hiccup standing to the right of the entrance.

         “So, who are you supposed to be?” I asked.

         He replied, “Pretend I don’t exist right now.  I am here to observe to make sure everyone does what they are supposed to and also to see who your strategy goes.  I will be your shadow.”

         “If you’re my shadow,” I said.  “It won’t look quite right.  Do I need to hop on one foot?”

         “Ha ha, very funny with the leg jokes,” Hiccup said as if he has heard that a thousand times.

         Mulch continued to lead us into the caves further, but we took a turn I did not think we were going to take.  I thought we would have the “showdown” in the hidden harbor to the left behind the one door.  Instead, we took a right and entered the main cavern and started walking towards a temporary large platform they must have constructed just for this drill.

         Stoick and Gobber stood by the cavern entrance as guards.  Mulch motioned us to stop as the Twins, Tuff on the left and Ruff on the right, marched in with spears.  They marched around us and stood facing each other in front of a make shift throne like seat.

         Ruffnut proceeded to blow through her spear as if it is a horn; Tuffnut stood and announced in his “prestigious” tone, “Announcing the world ruthless Dragon Hunter. The Archipelago’s most feared villain-.”

         Ruffnut interjected, “That would be a villainess, because she’s a girl.”

         In his normal voice he replied, “Oh yes,” but continued in his other tone, “The Archipelago’s most feared villain-ness.”

         Dagmar flew down on Snowball and landed behind the throne chair.  She dismounted her dragon and came around to stand between the Twins.  In the meantime, Tuffnut had given her a few more “mean” names.

         Tuffnut continued, “Slayer of sloths, killer of caterpillars-.”

         “Yes, Tuffnut,” interrupted Hiccup.

         Dagmar put up her hand, “If I am acting the part of the viking in charge here I’ll have to take care of this.”  Dagmar turned her attention to Tuffnut.  “Now, as much as those names and titles were good… it is what I hate most of all is an arrogant, puffed up viking.  After all, I am one of the humblest vikings around.”

         I added a comment, “You know that is true for you Dagmar and probably exactly something Vixxen would say.  So, you’re true on both fronts.”

         “Silence!” demanded Dagmar and stomped her foot.  “You will only speak your tongue unless spoken too.”

         “So,” I stated.  “Does that mean I can talk now, because you just spoke to me to tell me not to speak?  Or will that start after your statement about me not speaking unless you speak to me after this?”

         Dagmar could not help but chuckle, “Now I see what the others were saying about your wit.”

         “Dealing with sisters… well… let’s not go into that, let’s stay on topic,” I said while shooting a glance at Asvord.  She reacted only in a slight roll of her eyes, otherwise, she continued on.

         “I remember telling you that you have something of mine,” Dagmar related.

         “Oh, you mean the Dragon Eye?” I questioned.  Asvord handed me the Dragon Eye from her shoulder bag.

         Dagmar looked at Hiccup to mouth the words, “Is that what you were talking about?” and pointed to the Dragon Eye I am now holding out.  Hiccup nodded.

         Clearing her throat, Dagmar got back into character, “Yes, that is it.”

         I then said, “And I remember you telling me that you have something that does not belong to you.”
         Dagmar looked at me for a second and then remembered what is going to come next.

         I spoke, “I know you are also into the trading business as well the selling and buy markets as well, so I think we can come to a mutual understanding here.  You don’t get the Dragon Eye until I see the girl you are holding and know she is safe.”

         “You are a shrewd viking to deal with,” Dagmar replied flipping her red hair back.  “But I would probably make the same demand in your situation.  Bring the girl!”

         I leaned back to whisper to Cazi and Asvord, “Dagmar even has the same color as Vixxen.  With a little bit of a clothing change and a change in the hair style, she could pass as Vixxen.”

         From the left side, from the shoreline of the internal lake, Snotlout and Fishlegs led an Astrid whose wrists were tied behind her back.

         “Move it!” Snotlout ordered.  “Berkian scum!”

         Astrid responded as Snotlout shoved her forward, “Just be glad this is a drill for Jarl, because if this was one of Hiccup’s ideas, you would not be standing right now, Snotlout.”

         Fishlegs looked at her as if he is just along for the ride; Snotlout added, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t the one who drew the short end of the stick.”

         “Something tells me that there was more to that than picking just the short stick,” remarked Astrid.

         Dagmar smiled a bit, “As you can see, the girl is in fine condition and capable of taking care of herself.”

         “Thank you,” interjected Astrid.

         “Hand over the Dragon Eye and you can have the girl,” waved Dagmar with her right hand to bring the Dragon Eye over. “And as you said, this is business.  If you don’t hand over the Dragon Eye, well… you know what might happen next.”

         For a second I thought this was the real thing, but then I thought of an idea, “Tell you what.  You can have the Dragon Eye.”

         Everyone in the area gave a short gasp as that was unexpected.

         “But it isn’t going to be as easy as just handing it over to you, where’s the sport in that?” I said.  “Hearing how good you are with your sword and dueling with you some, I can see a seasoned warrior who has had countless experiences and adventures spanning several years.  Let’s see just how good your really are.  But not just a winner/loser duel.  Let’s raise the stakes.”

         “I’m listening,” replied Dagmar.

         “We duel,” I suggested.  “I win, we keep the Dragon Eye and bring the girl home with us and let you guys be… for now.  You win… you keep the Dragon Eye, the girl still goes free, but I show you how to use the Dragon Eye.”

         “So,” Dagmar said.  “To be clear, you say you will stay and show me how the Dragon Eye works?”

         “Yes,” I simply spoke.

         “Challenge excepted, but one exception or no deal,” Dagmar shook her head.

         “What exception?” I asked.

         Dagmar answered, “I already know how good I am and know I can beat you.  But what I don’t know is how good you are against my greatest warrior that is fighting for me.”

         Now I felt caught off guard and waited to see who she meant.

         “Hello there,” came a familiar voice from behind.

         “Dad?” I replied turning around unsure of what I just heard.

         “I am not your father,” my father told me.  “Well I am… but for the drill, I am Vixxen’s most trusted and feared warrior,” father had drawn his sword and struck a pose, then lowered his sword to use his hands in his brief explanation of why they thought this would be good for the drill.  “Dagmar came up with this idea.  With what she was hearing from how those who have seen Vixxen described her to Dagmar, Dagmar thought this would be one of the things she would do; rather Vixxen would do.  Totally unexpected having someone you know and care about actually turn on you and fight you.  Gives you the shock factor, which no doubt Vixxen will again use to knock you off your game.”

         “Alright,” I said, getting excited to fight my father.  “Haven’t done this in a while.”

         “No.  Let’s see how much you remember,” father stated.  “Are you ready?”

         Knowing my father, as soon as I said my next word, he will attack.  So, I waited until I unclipped my bow -which is currently in the sword position- and pointed it at him, “I’m ready.”

         Not more than a half a second passed after I finished the word then when my father struck his first attack on me.  He swung from right to left.  I blocked middle.  Father went on to do a series of attacks which I recognized to be the style he taught me.  I blocked and defended every one of them.

         “So, you do remember,” replied father as he stood up.

         I proceeded to immediately stick my sword between his legs and pull his left foot out from under him.  Because my sword is also my bow, the sword has a slight curve to it and there is a hook-like bulge on the back side of the sword.  I used this to pull my father’s leg from under him.

         I added as I stepped back to ready position, “I also remember my father saying, ‘Don’t let your guard down with your opponent.  If they are an experienced fighter, they will use this opportunity against you.’”

         “Apparently, I am getting a little rusty,” father added.

         Mother chuckled and folded her arms, “Lame excuse for your own son one upping you.”

         Father picked himself up and dusted himself off the ground, “You know the style I taught you and the positions.  Let’s see if you remember the parries and everything else I taught you.”  My father picked up the speed of his attacks.

         My father knows all sorts of forms for fighting: Either hand and fighting one handed or using both hands.  The form I see him using the most is both hands.  Because I am active with my footwork and using my surroundings in my fighting style along with my athletic ability, I use a one-handed grip with my dominant right hand.  Father taught me this way because he saw I had a better ability to use my surroundings than he did at the same age when his father taught him.  Seeing how my weapon is Gronckle Iron now, it gives me a faster and wider range of motion because the weight is considerable less.

         My father and I fight slightly different styles of fighting, but the forms are the same; so are the parries, counters, and combinations.  The more experience you get with each fight and duel, the better skilled you will become to use a variety of attacks, defenses, parries, counters, and a combination of all of that.

         The first half of the duel I mostly defended.  I did, however, attempt to counter some of his attacks, but he is one of the quickest to block counters.

         As always, I began to see his pattern.  Swing right to left, middle.  Swing left to right, down and up.  Trust forward, block any counters down and away to the left.  Attempt flying leg kick right to left, middle.  Usually he would do this to create separation and also try to knock me off balance.  I am better than that and it never worked.  And then back to swing right to left, middle.  Of course, this is his basic pattern.  Combinations, variations, and leaving out a few or doubling a few attacks were consistent throughout.

         We fought to a standstill and shoved each other back so we would be farther apart.  As anticipated, some my other friends -who are acting as the bad guys- started to come in behind us, but the friends I picked to go in first trapped them.

         “Nice going,” Hiccup declared.

         “How are you going to get out of this now?” father asked.  “You know you can’t beat me, Astrid is right here but still captive… only because she is willing, but that’s beside the point… and you are outnumbered.”

         Smiling, “Am I outnumbered?  Yes.  Can you beat me?  That remains to be seen.”

         Falling back on what happened with Vixxen last time, when I was able to create a much longer distance between her and me, I was able to get the upper hand.  Same situation here.  But I had something else in mind.

         Father sprinted towards me and showed a thrusting attack.  I showed a middle block as I ran forward.  At the last moment, I slid into my father, knowing his legs out from under him.  My father went flying overhead, lost his balance, and rolled into Dagmar.

         Ordering to Cazi and Asvord, “Get Astrid.”

         At the sound of that, Astrid hopped over her arms, bring her hands in front of her.  Cazi went straight for Snotlout and actually threw a right cross and landed it on Snotlout’s jaw.  Asvord just looked at Fishlegs and he simply stepped back.

         “I was going to ask nicely to let her go,” Asvord said as Cazi used her dagger to cut Astrid’s bonds.  “But that’ll work too.”

         All of us who are the “good guys” here, turned around to meet a mean looking Stoick and Gobber as well as Bucket and Mulch.  I then simply pointed behind them to show that mother’s group as well as the girls’ group had broken through.  Now we have everyone else surrounded.

         Hiccup clapped, “Very nice execution of a plan.  Even with unknowns of what we had planned, you countered them nicely.  Asvord and I am sure you do as well, believe this is about how tomorrow will go.  But just to prepare for other things, the rest of the day will be spent on one-on-one fighting, group fighting, and dragon in-flight fighting.  I will help guide the dragon fighting, Astrid the one-on-one fighting, Stoick the group fighting.”

         The rest of the day we spent doing those three things.  We split up into three groups so we would all be doing something in that time.  Once we were done with one fighting group, we would move onto the next.  In each group, Astrid’s, Stoick’s, and Hiccup’s, they all had very good pointers.  Some things I got reminded of, other things I learned new.  All of which I will carry in with me tomorrow.

         In Astrid’s group, we all sparred with one another while Astrid gave pointers along the way.  To end the time we had with her, she had each of us spar with her.  Each viking that walked up, she took care of.  None of us held back, but everyone else could not beat Astrid.  Cazi came close, but daggers against an axe is bad odds.  However, Cazi made Astrid really work for the win.  The goal was to knock the other off their feet.

         When Astrid got to me, she was expecting me to have my sword.  I instead changed it back to my bow at the last minute.  This must have caught her off guard and slightly underestimated my ability of my staff fighting skills.  Although I did knock her off her feet and she hit the ground first, Astrid knocked me off mine and I fell down too.

         “You did good knocking me down.  Few have been able to do so,” Astrid said.  “But don’t get caught up in the moment of victory until you know you are safe.”

         In Stoick’s group, we learned how to better take on multiple attackers at once.  Father assisted in this group to show how to use better footwork to get this done.  It happened about the same as it did in Astrid’s group and the goal was again the same, but this time though, none of us were able to beat Stoick, my father, Spitelout, and my mother.

         “Don’t get too down on yourselves, lads,” Stoick spoke as he helped me up as I was the last to go.  “Taking on multiple foes alone are odds you never want to take if you can help it.  No matter how confident you may be in yourself, working together with your friends on the battlefield will make a few vikings feel like twenty.”

         And then Hiccup’s group.  Hiccup had us fight him and his gang -excluding Astrid, obviously- and Dagmar on Snowball to get practice against a snow-based dragon and fire blast.

         Cazi joked, “But can you really call a Whooly Howl’s, Snow, or Snoggletog Wraith’s blast fire?”

         The goal here was the same as before but different at the same time because you are on a dragon now.  Every rider told their dragons only to stun their targets.  If either you got knocked off your dragon or your dragon was stunned, you were out.  Last one standing, or in this case, flying wins.  We flew close to the side of Icestorm’s main mountain on the south side.  It may be a slope, but it is completely clear of trees and boulders.  And seeing that it had a thick layer of fresh snow powder, it made for a very soft landing.

         It was basically a free for all fight.  Hiccup and Dagmar always seemed the last two stan… flying, but if they were then they we lost automatically.  Even though my friends that are going with me tomorrow are on my team, to prepare for a larger dragon attack, my friends were instructed to fight everyone.  And if one of my friends were left standing, we would win.

         We did several rounds and never won.  When the other two groups were done with their fighting, we all joined together to have one large battle against each other.  We set boundaries as just the open side of the mountain, anyone pushed outside or willing flew outside the boundaries, they are out.  And it was definitely made clear to the Twins that this is a competition but if they go too far, they are out.

         However, it did not matter much as they became only the second one to be out.  They were distracted because they talked about how it would be no fun if this is not for real.

         Their argument is, “But how are we supposed to get Jarl and his friends ready for the real thing if we do not practice like that.”

         “Most cases, I would agree,” Hiccup countered as he stunned their Zippleback.  “One, you guys are either full tilt or barely going.  Two, we are on dragons now and do not want to hurt them or their riders in the slightest.”

         While Hiccup was trying to talk to the Twins, Astrid nearly got him from behind.  Astrid tried so much to get Hiccup that she left herself open from a blind stun shot from Hookfang and Snotlout from underneath.  Astrid was furious coming up out of the snow.  Because she is so mad, you would think she could have melted the whole side of the mountain.

         Snotlout did not learn from her mistake, though.  As Snotlout celebrated and was about to taunt Astrid, Cazi on Electic flew in a half circle, barrel rolled through two incoming riders, Asvord and Hyrith, Hyrith went above and Asvord went below, Cazi threaded the needle, and censored rushed Snotlout using Electic’s head to knock Snotlout off his dragon.

         Hookfang and Snotlout crashed yards away from Astrid who declared and folded her arms, “Serves you right.”

         One by one, vikings were knocked out of the game.  It had happened three times before: Dagmar, Hiccup, and myself as the last three.

         The three of us flew in a left, medium sized circle to wait and see who will make the first move.  The southernmost part of the circle went out slightly over the edge of the mountain towards the forest area below.

         “Well, this is rather appropriate,” I declared.  “Me against the best dragons to prepare.”

         Hiccup has said time and time again why everything has to be a competition; but if I heard his tone right when he said, “But will the same result happen as before?” Hiccup is being competitive himself.

         Dagmar made the first move as she peeled out to the right to make a circle over the trees.  I for a split second turned my head to watch Dagmar go and then my gut told me Hiccup did the same to line up a shot on me and Fredrick.  Turning my head back around I saw Hiccup and Toothless coming straight for us.

         No matter what I did diving up or down, Toothless always got us.  This time, I started Fredrick up and nudged him to juke back down.  However, I quickly took my feet out of the stirrups and pushed off the top of Fredrick to launch myself in the air.  The sudden change in direction by both of us caught Hiccup off guard.

         “Jarl look out!” Hiccup yelled as Toothless had already fired the stunning blast up.

         Thinking the dragon would still be there to hit, the blast instead came right for me.  I maneuvered my arms in midair, pulling them close to my chest, to cause my body to roll to the right, narrowly missing the blast.  The sight of me now falling dangerously close to the edge of the mountain edge, Hiccup and Toothless turned their attention on me.

         Instead, they got stunned from behind by Fredrick who then nosedived under them as they crashed into the powder, a dust cloud of snow rushed into the air as Fredrick flew, and Fredrick flew under me as I was about to miss the edge of the mountain and fall into the trees.  My back hit Fredrick’s saddle which bounced me up and backwards.  Knowing I had to get back on my dragon, I contorted my body around and grabbed Fredrick’s tale in a reverse backflip with a twist in the air.  I grabbed my dragon’s tale as I was just finishing the twist in the air.

         Suddenly out of nowhere, I got pelted with very heavy “snowballs” and lost my grip on Fredrick’s tale.  I fell down even further, but had enough awareness of mind to launch my grappling hook into the edge of the cliff and swing back to it, going through the trees in the process.

         Shortly thereafter I was pulled up back on the edge by the Twins who happened to be the closest to where I fell.  Everyone rushed to my side asking if I was alright.  Though I laid still in the snow for a minute, I told them I am okay.

         Then sitting up, stilling having part of my left leg off the side of the cliff, Dagmar flew up, landed Snowballs, and ran over, “I am so sorry.  Neither of us were expecting that sudden move you did, Jarl, and we both fired at moments that we thought we were going to hit something else. I am-.”

         “It is alright, Dagmar,” I interrupted.  “Things like that will happen,” Dagmar offered her right hand to help me up.  Scooting away from the cliff first, I grabbed her hand to stand up.  “This was supposed to help with what might happen tomorrow.  So many things are unknown what might happen and I have to be ready.  Doing a stunt like that I have to be ready to face the consequences.”

         “I’m just glad you are alright,” stated my mother who gave me a quick look over.

         Stoick then said, “I believe that is enough for one day.  It is now on towards supper.  How about we stop at Mystery for a meal before we all head back to either Dragon’s Edge or Berk?”

         Gobber added, “I was planning something for a meal, so I will make something special for everyone.”

         We all flew back to Mystery for supper.

         After everything I have practiced and learned today, I thought I would feel totally ready.  But I do not.  I feel dejected.  The same way I felt after Vixxen bested me yesterday.  I have never beaten Vixxen in the past.  When I thought I had, it was only to find that Vixxen had something else to beat me with.

         I thought, “If I cannot beat even an adopted relative on a similar dragon with equal or better skill on said dragon, how am I ever going to beat Vixxen?  Can she even be beaten?”