Book 9 - The Mist in the Darkness - Chapters 27 and 28: "Another Agenda" and "Close to the Heart"

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

I intended these two to be one chapter, but after adding on so much at the end, it went over 10,000 words.  So, I decided to make it two chapters.  I'm getting really excited about the coming chapters...

 

Starting with these:  I hope you enjoy!

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

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

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

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

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

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

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

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

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

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

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

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

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

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

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

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

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

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

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

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

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

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

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

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

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

 

The Crimson Storm

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

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

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

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

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

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

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httyyd
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Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

Here is the music mix for this chapter:

Get Ready To Fight ~ 1-Hour Epic Battle & Workout Mix

 

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Chapter 27

Another Agenda

 

Jarl’s Point of View

 

         Aiyana needed more time to study the notebook, so she took it home with her.  Soon after that, everyone else left for their home and Annabeth and I are left on the couch.  We watch the wood glow its bright oranges and reds with its crackles and pops.  We are in a slouched position with our feet on the low table.  Annabeth’s head on my shoulder, my arm around her.  I have not had some quiet few moments like this with Annabeth in seems like months when it was only a couple of weeks ago.  Neither of us have said anything, but it is like we are waiting for the other to start.  For probably ten minutes, we are staring at the fireplace in silence.

         “Do you trust me?”  Of all the things to suddenly ask me, she asks that out of the blue.

         “What?  Of course, I do,” I answer, yet I sense there is more to the question which made her ask it.  “What happened on the southern island?”

         As if not wanting to be reminded of the place, she lets out a deep sigh, “I knew you would figure out where I went.”

         I hear a bit of frustration in her voice, for once not towards me but to what happened.

         I state, “You knew I would know what you were going to do then.  Furthermore, I know now that what happened has you upset.”

         Annabeth takes her legs off the table to sit forward.

         I match while inquiring, “Annabeth,” by putting my hand on her back.  “What’s wrong?”

         Hesitating for a moment, she begins softly before answering, “The things I thought I knew about my past…  Well, everything has changed.”  She pauses for several seconds.  It looks like she does not even want to talk about it, but will, “Kind of wishing now I would have never gone back to my first home.”

         I want to ask again what happened but let her tell me at her own pace.  She turns a bit towards me while staring down at the floor, though her eyes do not stay in one place before darting to another random spot, as if she is still trying to make sense of something.

         “Jarl.  He is mounting a full assault on those who were responsible for the desolation of his home.  He knows that the Berserkers weren’t responsible because the island circled on a map is on the fringes of the Barbaric Archipelago, directly south of Berk.  There is something he is trying to find.  For at the front of the formation for attacking the island is a large circle with a question mark inside of it.  Furthermore, around the whole archipelago he has certain islands circled as if he is looking for what could possibly help him in battle.  However, one of the islands…  Is Berserker Island.”

         “I’m sorry, Annabeth.”

         “Don’t be.  I believe you owe me a ‘I told you so.’  I… I just-.”

         “Didn’t want to think your parents were any more than what you remembered them to be.  When someone does not live up to your expectations, your trust in them waivers.”

         “That’s not all,” Annabeth stands up, walks to the fire, stoking it.  “Going back, I was welcomed by them to stay for as long as I wanted.  Grimwald never asked why you did not come, but Sky did.  I am so glad they are alive, yet even the small with them is like I am talking to a distant friend, almost a stranger.  The way in which Grimwald said no mention of you and the offer to stay here as long as I wanted, it sounded like an indefinite statement more than a friendly offer for a day or two.”

         “I had spent most of the day just trying to think.  Think about the mystery, think about my past, think about the present…  Think about…  Our future.  – My thoughts could not stay on one topic for long before bouncing to the next.  The day was anything but productive.  Then finally it hit me.  The thing I was not seeing…  The thing I did not want to see…  Was the possibility my parents were not who I remembered them to be.  I was asking the wrong questions.  I ignored the signs I was seeing in hopes of finding the parents I once had.  Instead of wondering who my parents were, I needed to find out who and what they are today.  With a newfound purpose to confront my fear, I was going to talk to Grimwald about what he is hiding after supper.”

         “They weren’t in their house or in their meeting hall, so I checked the workshop.  By then, it was well into the night and a fog started to settle into the area.  After I had not heard or seen anyone, I thought they weren’t there either, so I walked in and started looking around.  I had just gone over to look at the table with their map and the things which were on it when I heard voices out back behind the building.  It was them.  I only eased my way through the darkness close enough to the doorway to hear clearer.”

         “They broke the silence I had been in, ‘You going to tell her?’  Grimwald did not reply.  ‘Grim, you have to tell her.  She’s your daughter.’  In a quiet voice he replied, ‘She’s not my daughter.’  Sky rebuked him, ‘She is too your daughter!  She is as much your daughter as she was Oswald’s!  He entrusted us to her!’  Dejected, he responded, ‘And look where that got us.  Our island wiped out and Annabeth put in jeopardy.’  ‘We raised her to be a strong woman and look how she turned out.  Are we just going to treat her now as if she is some enemy who could ruin our plans?’  Grim got up to pace, ‘You saw what she has become.  She has friends, she has a new home without us.  She’s…  She is a Dragon Rider.’  ‘Why do you say it with such distain?  We have other dragon riders on the island.’  ‘But with her it is different.  None of this was supposed to happen.  She was supposed stay with us and save us from our future.  And because of the past, she may very well be the one standing in our way.’  Sky tried downplayed, ‘You don’t know that.  She is a grown woman and can decide for herself.’  Animated, he responded, ‘You’ve seen it yourself.  She has a new family, she’s married to that Mollerson kid, and to top it all off he’s on the same trail as we are, in fact he’s been to the island already.  And what I’ve heard of him, he is not going to let anyone have it.’  Sounded like Sky agreed with at least some of it -if not all of it, looking back on it now, ‘Regardless of what has happened now, we still need her.  She is still a crucial part of the success of our plan.’  ‘Just a few days ago, we were going to go through with this without her, without the knowledge of hearing she is alive.  We can still do it without her.’  Sky stepped up to him, ‘Need I remind you that had we, it would have been a complete suicide trip for our people.  We’ve remained hidden ever since that fateful night.  But now with the return of Skygge, there is no telling what he might do, what lengths he might go to, to get his revenge.  We must stop him from doing so.’”

         “I was so enthralled with what I heard, I did not hear someone come up behind me and grab me.  I tried to struggle out of his grip, but the guy pushed me through the doorway, practically throwing me to the ground behind Sky and Grimwald.  ‘Annabeth,’ Sky ran to me and helped me up.  I looked behind me, I saw that it was Alrik who shoved me.  Grimwald asked him, ‘How much did she hear?’  Alrik gruffly replied, ‘Plenty.  Who knows what else she has seen in the workshop?’  Sky gasped, ‘The plans.  They are just laying out on the table.  She must have seen them.’  Alrik suggested, ‘We can’t let her go now.’  Grimwald looked at me before answering Alrik, ‘Alert the Guard.  Annabeth may have said she came here by herself, but she very well could have brought their crew.’  ‘What about her?’  Grimwald sighed deeply and stared at the ground.  A moment later, he walked toward me, ‘I’ll take care of her.’  Alrik ran to alert the Guard, whoever they are.  Grimwald came up to me and looked me squarely in the eyes, brought his hand up to my cheek to hold it.”

         “I was so disoriented by everything, wondering what in the world is going on, I let him grab me by the wrist.  He led me out the front, going at a faster pace than what I could keep up with, ‘What are you doing?’ I questioned.  ‘You’re hurting me.’  He nearly started to drag me as he led me back to the guest house we were at before.  All of my questioning did no good.  He was stone cold, mind made up.  Once we were at the house, he practically threw me on the steps as he marched into the barn.  Rubbing my wrist, I then realized what he was doing.  By the time I jumped up to go after him, he had already started to lead Anora out.  ‘What are you doing?’  Grimwald when I tried to push him away instead picked me up and then set me on my dragon, and told me, ‘Get out of here.’  Both me and Sky said at the same time, ‘What?’  Both surprised he let me go, but for two different reasons.  Grimwald explained, ‘I bought you some time by telling Alrik to alert the Guard.’  I was completely shocked by everything happening, I couldn’t think of the question I wanted to ask and stammered out some ramblings of thoughts I had.  ‘Annabeth,’ he interrupted me, and he tried reaching for the hand which he had taken by force.  I flinched, thinking he might do it again.  He stopped for a moment before I let him lay his hand on mine.  It was a gentle touch, ‘Know this, Annabeth.  I will always love you.  But if we cross paths again, it will not be as family, but as enemies.’  I finally asked, ‘Wha- What are you saying?’  ‘If you want to return to Jarl, you need to leave now!  Before I…’ the regret in his eyes said it all.  ‘I change my mind.’”

         “With a mix of anger, confusion, fear, and frustration, I flew off.  I stopped on a nearby island the next chance I could, where I…  Tried to make sense of what.”

         At her hesitation, she had turned around.  I saw fear in her eyes along with some tears welling up.

         “Oh, Annabeth,” I embrace her, supporting her in my arms.

         She gripped tighter.

         While we still hugged, her head resting under mine, she repeated her original question in a hushed voice, “Do you trust me?”

         Pulling her back to look into her eyes, I say with no pause, “I will always trust you.”

         I thought that would put her at ease, but it did the exact opposite.  She started to shake!

         Every bone in my body wanted to ask her what else she is not telling me.  But if it was not for the question, she asked me twice and the answer I meant both times…  If I truly do trust her, I must trust she has a very good reason for not telling me what happened.  My thoughts start to race as to what it might have been.

         I cannot help but jump to that conclusion about it happening on the island because that was the only time she hesitated.  It was as if she wanted to say something else, but hastily changed it.  I could very well be reading too much into the whole thing because she could be afraid because her adopted father -the one she grew up knowing- just said that they would be enemies the next time they met.  But the fact that she thinks she should keep something from me, frightens me; especially if she no longer trusts me.  Again, jumping to a conclusion.

         I know she trusts me.  She knows I trust her.

         If both of those are true statements, do we trust “us”?  If the answer is, “Yes,” then we both must trust each other in our decisions.

         As much as I want to press the issue, I do not.  Annabeth is on edge the rest of the night, jittery, still shaking, not paying attention to what I say, and forgetting little things of her normal routine of preparing for the night.  Her attitude is almost like she wants me to press the issue.  Sticking my word, I never mention my concern.

         By the time we get in bed, she has relaxed a bit and is the first to fall asleep.  Me however, I am wide awake.

 

         The next morning, is very different.  Once we got word from Hiccup that we should all expect a counterstrike from Stormheart, it more than sealed the deal of what Annabeth found out.  Some of Stormheart’s forces had already attacked Scuttleclaw Island.  Elsa and Astrid defended the island, but when Astrid had told Elsa about how Snotlout went to Armorwing Island from another tip Stormheart would be there too, Hiccup sent an alert out to Berk’s allies.  The Dragon Riders along with a lot of my crew as support was dispatched all around the archipelago to stop Stormheart from attacking any islands.

         Annabeth and I both knew that somehow her parents are connected to this.  She added from what she remembered going to the Southern Island, how there were several ships in the docks, large ships, able to hold about fifty vikings, fitted with catapults.  Grimwald discounted it as the ships were in for repairs, but fully admitted they are part of the island’s fleet.  As far as we know, Stormheart does not have many large ships other than the Tempest.  But from the intel my parents knew of Stormheart, she would often hire mercenary or pirate crews to support her power.  However, she is often one to do things to benefit herself.  So, whoever she hires often has to do something for her to receive any payment from her for their ships.  Seems very backwards, yet now we are learning like my parents did:  Stormheart will do anything to get her way.

         Most of the morning has been spent bolstering Berserker Island’s defenses.  By what Annabeth saw of her parents plans and what Stormheart has already done today, we are expecting major forces to try and attack Berserker Island.  To get anything from us, one would have to have to be crazier than we are and have a lot of ships behind them to even make a dent in our island.

         About a third of my crew is left to help defend the island.  Dagur’s Armada is out in full force encircling the island.  Everything is set for a defense and we stand ready on the northern shores ready for the planned attacked Annabeth saw.  Now we wait.

         And wait.

         And wait.

         By noon, we are surprised no one has attacked yet.  Another hour goes by, and Dagur sends scouts to see if anyone is waiting on the horizon.  Yet another hour and yet still nothing.  Reports of no ships on the horizon come back and everyone is confused.  My crew is still at the ready, but throughout the rest of the Berserkers, unrest begins to spread.  The one who notices it the most is Annabeth.  While she, Heather, Dagur, and I go through checking the stations, whispers start popping up as we go by; people glance and shoot passing looks at us too.

         I take Annabeth out of the situation and ask Dagur and Heather to finish the inspection.  The reason I give is I want to know if Aiyana has found anything from the notebook.  Each of us know I have already asked Aiyana that twice and she has said nothing conclusive to give us a clue to something important.  Though eager to find out more about Deondre’s book, I hate to imagine what Annabeth is thinking about the possible hoax of an attack.

         Returning my friends at the Stables, I see them in front of the building overlooking the whole island, ready to take off at a moment’s notice.  They are all either on their dragon or next to them, trying to keep themselves entertained until the fireworks start.  Aiyana, Fira, Hyrith, Cazi, and Angie are at the stables.  Valkarik, Michia, and Ali are on the west, east, and south sides, respectively.

         Cazi looked like she wanted to make a remark about our foes being late, but once she saw Annabeth, decided against it, “Hey, Aiyana.  Found anything in that book yet?”

         Aiyana flipped a page and replies, “So far just a bunch of formulas using various herbs and spices.  Asking Fira, a lot of them she even knows.”

         “It doesn’t make sense,” Fira folds her arms.  “For the amount of effort Val, Ali, and Michia went to get this.  These formulas are common medicinal herb mixtures, ones I’ve used for years.”

         Hyrith adds, “I want to know why there were so many images of the Shadow Dragon in that cave and yet the book makes no mention of the Shadow Dragon.”

         Aiyana put her chin in her hands, “Kind of surreal to read Deondre’s writing.  Bringing back memories of my family.  Some good, some… bad.  But of the stories that I heard about Deondre is he was always straight forward, never really the one to make something so complex that it doesn’t make sense.  He was the one to do the opposite.  No one understood why he pursued the things he did, but when people spoke to him, they understood him better.  Maybe not agreed but understood him.  As long as a Greek could reason with someone else regardless of opinion or preference, they would still associate with them and do business.”  She lets out a sigh.  “It is almost as if he wants whoever eventually found this book to then give up.  I haven’t read the whole thing, but the way some of the pages look later they look the same as the ones in the beginning.  The pictures of the plants are basic ones you’d find in the wild.  It has never sounded redundant, but just looks the same and uses the same formula.  It is like he put this book in that cave so whoever tried to find the Shadow Dragon, they couldn’t and just give up.”

         From my stance, something mentally just hit me after thinking out loud, “Deondre doesn’t want the Shadow Dragon to be found.”

         Cazi stood up from leaning on her dragon, “What clue finally made sense?”

         “That obvious?” she must have seen my expression change.  “If Deondre is trying to misdirect someone from finding the Shadow Dragon, then he has another agenda.  If Stormheart is attacking other islands for no apparent reason I can think of and is being redundant, yet everything she does, she does with a purpose, then…”  While I still think, seeing everyone else’s expression change.

         “Then she has another target…”

         Trailing off, we all had the same conclusion at the same time.  We leap onto our dragons and start flying north.

         I fly close to where Dagur and Heather should be and tell them, “We need to go warn Berk.  I believe Stormheart will try a surprise attack against them.”

         “What about Grimwald?” Dagur questions.  “Doesn’t he know it feels very rude to be stood up when I expected a battle?”

         “There very well could be one, but I don’t know,” I agree.  “But stay here regardless.  We’ll be back.  If you hear any dragon fire while we leave, you’ll know there is an attack.  If not, then see you later, brother.”

         Getting back to the task at hand, I catch back up to the group to race back to Berk.  We see no signs of any ships in Berserker water.  On that front, I am beginning to think Grimwald is either still planning his attack on Berserker Island, or it was just a ploy knowing Annabeth was on the island and would report to me anything she saw.

         The next two hours seemed like a lifetime as we zoom Berk.

         Our eyes peeled on the horizon for about the time we should start seeing Berk, we see something else.  The closer we get, the more our fear is true.

         Stormheart is laying siege to Berk!

         Emplacements are already laying on Berk’s shore, the Tempest blocking the harbor, and small warships being dispatched to further break through the Docks!

         Zipping towards the incoming warships, I yell out, “Arrow formation!”

         Cazi and Angie flank me with their Skrills, Hyrith and Fira line up behind me with their Nadder and Nightmare, and Annabeth and Aiyana fly side by side to bring up the rear.  Leading the target of the ship, we fly towards a spot ahead of them.

         Right as we near, I let out the command, “Now!”

         I lay both hands on top of Fredrick and plaster myself against him.  As he loops around the top of the ship, he fires a steady stream of sonic waves.  Cazi and Angie have their Skrills shoot into the waves creating a devastating disruption field of electricity sparking out everywhere.  Fredrick holds his position as the Skrills peel off as Hyrith and Fira come in, shooting their fire dragons to force the soldiers to abandon ship.  Fredrick is one step ahead of me, he fires a sonic boom just as Aiyana’s Dramillion and Annabeth’s Razorwhip swoop in for a shot of their own.  All three shots combine the warship is obliterated.

         Annabeth swings around and flies to my right.  The result is a volley of arrows being blocked or vaporized by Anora.

         “Thanks!” I call out.

         Annabeth nods.

         The unexpected entrance of my crew makes the second warship think twice and retreats to a safer distance.

         “We need to check on Valka and see how the rest of Berk is fairing before we take out the rest of Stormheart’s ships.”

         Flying down to the beaches west of the docks, we see Eret and Valka both taking care of an incoming wave of automotons, which were running on their own down the beach.  This confirms they do not need any pilot nor any manipulation from lower levels from the Tempest during my last encounter with them.  It is both impressive and equally terrifying Stormheart has been able to achieve such a feat.

         Eret welcomes my crew as he just finishes swing down, chopping the head off the automaton, “Hullo, you guys!  Nice of you to drop by!”

         Valka too had finished off one and came over to great us.

         I briefly greeted them, “Sorry we could come sooner, we only just figured out what Stormheart was trying to do.”

         “While you timing could be better, of course, because the fight has already found us,” Valka stated.  “I am glad you are here now.  With the Auxiliary Riders helping Hiccup on the other islands, we need you and your crew to fight Stormheart while the others make sure that the rest of Berk is safe.  Take out any of the remaining ships!  Your sister, Elsa, arrived only moments before you did.  Along with her and a couple others, a powerful Sentinel joined to help fight off the attack.  With his power with us and your crew, we must destroy these warships!”

         Eret and Valka run off to support Berk’s forces repelling the ground assault.

         Quickly turning to my crew, I order, “Cazi and Hyrith, Fira and Angie.  Go take out the artillery on the Tempest.  That will give Berk’s group troops a break.”  All four take off right then to do so.  “Aiyana, come help us take out the rest of the ships.”

         By now, the second warship was already coming back for a second try.  Expecting the ship to anticipate a similar maneuver, we use Ray Formation to switch it up.  Me and Annabeth line up behind Aiyana.  Being able to draft off the tail of Apollo, we make a beeline for the ship at top speed.  Executing the formation, Aiyana and Annabeth pull up at the last second, drawing initial fire, protecting each other’s wing.  Fredrick, however, stays the course and fires a blast knocking over every soldier in the ship.  Annabeth circles around the slice the mast with Anora’s tail.  I start a loop up.  Looking back down, Apollo camouflages to take the soldiers by surprise, knocking into a few of them.  In the same motion, Aiyana jumps off and starts to take on the attackers.  Between the two of them, dragon and rider clean off the ship.  She mounts her dragon and breaks off just as I loop back down, firing a stream across the top of the ship.  Anora fires two blasts into the heart of the stream creating an explosion, which breaks apart the ship at every seam.

         Aiyana and Annabeth form back up on Fredrick’s wings.  Aiyana points back to the beach.  Some of the automotons are pinning down our ground crews.

         “I’ll draw their fire,” I tell the girls.  “You two shoot them out of commission.”

         We line up again, but with me in the lead.  Arcing around from the south, I line up my angle so the other two can pick one off as a distract the soldiers behind the automotons.  While these things may be automatic, they can only do one thing.  What is curious, each time they are hit by and arrow, they change the direction they go.

         Flying over the soldiers, gives Annabeth and Aiyana the window to shoot the automotons.  Furthermore, this gives our soldiers the opportunity to knock out the attackers.

         Checking up with Eret, we hover over head as we hear him remark, “How does it feel, you tin toy?  Boom!  These amateur buccaneers should know that it take more than a few wind-up dolls to take down the finest dragon wrangler!”  Running over to us he goes on, “If it’s not one thing, its another…  Stormheart’s men are setting up dragon traps on the beach.  Not if we can help it!  Help me chop these dragons free, please!”

         While Berk’s troops took care of the attackers who were already knocked out, the four of us go after the metal traps they had already set up.  Each taking a trap, we split up.

         Running up to them, they are a hulking dome on four wheels twenty feet across, large enough to encase a Nadder or any dragons smaller than that.

         “I’ll have you out in a moment,” I voice to the dragon inside.

         I went once around the contraption to see how it work.  Rather simple.  Tension and spring loaded.  Moving to the side, I take out my sword and use it to slice the support wooden bars keeping the tension of the chain.  Once the tension is gone, the mouth of the dome opens.

         Looking in, I call out, “Freckles!  What you are doing getting caught?”

         Watching her fly out, I am followed by a bonk on the head.  It was a gentle tap, but I still reacted with readying my sword.

         “Gothi!  Don’t do that.  You could have had your next duel.”

         She Humphed and waved her dragon to come back down.  Freckles landed and Gothi climbed aboard.

         Regrouping with Eret and the others on the middle of the beach, he comments, “You have to admire the audacity of Stormheart to try to capture dragons on Berk itself.  She’s not scared of going for the jugular, is she?”

         Just then, a shadow appears overhead.  It is Cloudjumper.

         “Excellent work on the ground, Eret.  Also, in in the air,” she looks at my crew.  “Now we must turn our attention to the seas.  The Tempest is about to launch her Grimora gas launchers.  We need to stop them before they can drive innocent dragons into a frenzy, throwing Berk into chaos!”

         Before any of us could react, Cazi flies over head, reporting, “The gas launchers are already taken care of as well as any anti-dragon artillery.”

         “Excellent!” Valka exclaims.  “Their defenses are wide open.  Land on the ship and free dragon already caged.  Cloudjumper and I will try to distract any remaining forces.”

         Annabeth, Aiyana, and I jump back on our dragons and meeting with the rest of my crews to fill them in.  The others land on the far side, while the three of us with Cazi land on the near side.  There is hardly anyone left on the decks.  Any who are is firing at Valka and Cloudjumper.  She makes them look like a fool, knocking each one off the ship as she goes.

         The cages only had a few occupied with dragons:  A couple of Changewings and some…  Sentinels!

         The cages are unlocked, but the Sentinels did not know that.

         Freeing them, Aiyana remarks, “Why would Stormheart capture these dragons?”

         Valka timely finishes and lands next to us as the last Sentinel is freed, “Sentinels are incredibly powerful, selfless, loyal dragons, and this one is no different!  It looks like she wants to fight by our side.”  We start to hear a thunder of footsteps from the lower decks.  “It’s time for us to take the fight to Stormheart herself!  I’ll clear the way while you head to the bridge.  Go!”

         Seeing the thunder of my soldiers emerge from the ramp on the left, the Sentinel hears it and…

         Whoosh!

         One clap of the Sentinel’s wings and the first wave is knocked into the sea.

         The rest of us run up the deck towards the captain’s bridge.  Suddenly, we stop in our tracks as from the shadows and from other levels, another horde of soldiers appear.  They wear Stormheart’s colors, but they do not look like they are from the Tempest.

         “Well, well, well.  It’s come to this…,” from the deck above the arm of the ship we are on, one Harald Forkbeard emerges.  “I guess it was inevitable, really.  After all the good times, the kidnappings,” he glances at Annabeth.  “And the scams,” he pets Leopold.  “I feel like we’ve become close friends.”  He then jumps off the platform and onto the deck.  Standing up, he continues, “I play a great pirate and you play a great sucker.  We are always one step ahead of you.  But for now, let’s have a clean duel, shall we?”

         Charging ahead, my crew gets caught up with a fight with those incoming.  Our dragons have to regroup because more archers appear, so the dragons have to leave us.  The soldiers ignore me but stop the others.  Which is fine by me, I am going to give Harald that duel.

         Harald runs at me, I at him.  Seeing Leopold leave Harald’s shoulder as we near, my instinct is to slide.  As I do, Leopold fires a blast where I was.  My slide, however, takes out Harald’s legs.  I swing down to try and pin his sword, but he rolls out of the way.

         He stands up and winks at me, holding his short sword only in his right hand, “So much for a clean, squarely fought duel.”

         His sword comes at me quick as he slices right and back left.  I step back from the first and use my sword to deflect the second.  Both hands on my sword, I swing back to the middle.  He blocks down but replies with trying to swing up.  Step to the right, I have an opening to strike yet Leopold protects him by firing at me.  I have to run out of the line.  The Terror keeps up the stream, so I run towards the platform.  Harald chases me.

         “You’re not getting away that easily,” Harald declares.

         Baiting him into thinking he catches up with me, blocking me in front of the Grimora cache cage, as he lunges his sword at me.  I step up onto the cage, push off with my right, and back flip over him.  As I go, I grab a Crackle Bomb and throw it below me.

         The Bomb does not disorient him for he lifted his bracer up to block and diverted his eyes, “Your tricks won’t work on the Trick Master.”

         About to land on my feet, he reacts quick to my move, throwing his shoulder into my chest, tackling me to the deck.  Rolling over each other a few times, we both try to keep the other at bay by pushing against the opponent’s hand with the sword.

         At a standstill, or in this case, a lie-still, Harald whispers at me, “You’ll never figure it out.”

         Glancing at him, wondering at the remark, he used my lapse in concentration to throw a left cross at me.  It lands, causing me to not push back.  Harald pins me to the deck, bringing his sword to the back of my neck.

         “Jarl, your head’s not in this fight,” he tells me.  “What will it take to make you give up?”

         Out of the blue, I hear a Thunderdrum call out.  Harald’s expression changes to fear.  Both knowing what comes next, he dives to the right, I roll to the left…

         ROOOAAARRR!!!!

         Fredrick flew over top and dove to blast where Harald had me.  My dragon must have seen I was trouble and threw caution to the side.  Fredrick let out the call to let me know he was coming full tilt and I better get out of the way.  That was the only way I could get out of that spot.  Anything else would have been near impossible.

         Looking up Harald is nowhere to be found, but the soldiers now turn their attention to me.  Leaping on Fredrick I get out of there quick.  Seeing the others do the same, I start to turn around thirty yards further back to shore.

         Harald cries out, “I’ll see you around.  Have fun.”

         Wondering why he said, “Have fun,” from the depth of the Tempest emerges several dragons, various types…  All infected with Grimora!

         Thank goodness we can take care of it, but in doing so, Harald and the Tempest get away scot free.

 

 

Here's the music mix for this chapter:

Fearless Motivation - Masara - Continuous Mix (Epic Ambient Music)

 

Chapter 28

Close to the Heart

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         These dragons start chasing my crew back towards Berk.  This was Harald’s security blanket protecting his way of escaping.  Seems like he always has one.

         After about a half hour chasing them all down, either catching them and using the solution prepared or causing them to fly through or land in saltwater, everything settles down.  Everyone involved in the fight congregate on the main landing in front of The Great Hall.

         Valka still annoyed at the attack, comments, “Those savages had better flee from this place and tell Stormheart what happened here today.”

         I question, “I wonder why she wasn’t here?”

         “You fought hard and you fought well, dear one,” Valka complimented.  “You all did.  Was anyone injured?”

         “From my crew,” I answer for them.  “Beyond a few minor scuffs and bruises, we’ll be okay.”

         “If only Stoick could see you now,” Valka said, though her eyes water a bit.  “From what I hear from Hiccup, he always knew he could count on you to protect Berk from anyone and anything no matter where you are.  He’d be as proud as any chief could be.”

         “As Tuffnut so eloquently put the other day, I am a Berk-Serkian.  While I am married to a Berserker, I will always be a Berkian,” I state.  “No matter when or where the fight might be, I and the rest of the Berserker Nation will always be ready to protect Berk.”

         “And we thank you for it,” she replies.  Moving back to the subject of the aftermath.  “If fear all the damage Stormheart has inflicted across the archipelago may have harmed the delicate balance between viking and dragon...  I hope we can repair it.  Eret and I can take care of the cleanup here on Berk.  If you can, go find Hiccup and update him on the situation here.”

         Aiyana informs, “That won’t be necessary, here he comes now.”

         All the Dragon Riders along with the other from my crew return.

         Before Toothless could land, Hiccup jumps down, running up to us, “Valka, you’re safe!”

         “I can say the same for you,” his mother lays a hand on his shoulder; Hiccup was a bit out of breath.  So was Toothless, must have been flying fast.

         “Once we figured out what Stormheart was doing, I sent Elsa a few others back to Berk while we finished up wrangling the attackers from the different islands,” Hiccup stood up straight.  “We all then flew back as quick as we could to see if we could be of any help.”

         Cazi quips, “Guess you can help clean up the mess Harald and gang made.”

         “Harald?” Hiccup echoed.  “Stormheart wasn’t here?”

         “No,” I reply, heavily in thought though.  “And I can’t figure that one out.”

         What’s also heavy on my mind is wondering what the Berserkers going to think about not having a fight today, after gearing up for one.  A small portion of me hopes they did have a fight.  Now, I feel worse for thinking that.

         Valka asks her son, “Are in of your number injured?”

         “All of us made it back relatively unharmed,” he reported.  “There were just so many of them…  And on several islands.  And the news gets even worse from there.”

         “After we rounded up all the attackers and left them for the Defenders to pick up, Toothless and I had a hunch:  What if Stormheart had something even more nefarious in mind.  On our way back, we had spotted a ship with her banner.  Thinking it was going to another island to attack it, we thought we would catch it in the act.  What it did something we never expected.  We tracked it all the way to Auction Island to find something absolutely chilling:  The island is completely taken over by Stormheart!”

         None of us can believe this, I question, “Was there any kind evidence of fight?”

          “That’s the chilling part,” Hiccup said.  “No evidence of a fight, not even a struggle.  It looked as if they welcomed them in and even helped them.”

         Then it finally hit me, “Stormheart planned all of this from the get-go.  The attack on the School to the spreading of rumors about attacks happening on multiple islands at the same time.  She wanted us all to be kept busy.  The reason why she attacked so many different islands for no reason was the very reason she attacked.  She wanted to keep us all occupied while she had no one to stop her from taking over Auction Island.  The one place in the archipelago where someone of her status could be welcomed in.”

         Hiccup adds, “Or be completely outnumbered they gave in.  The number of ships she had with her was impressive.  Didn’t know she had that kind of power and influence to get so many ships at such short notice.”

         Astrid wondered, “Maybe she had these ships the whole time.”

         I finished, “This was her sole mission to complete and she wasn’t going to let anyone stop her.  She played us all for fools.”

         Hiccup brings his hand up to his chin to think, “Stormheart has only been in the archipelago for a few months and only within the last week started stirring up the currents.  If we let her flourish in a new home, we might be in for countless more fights in the future.”

         Eret mentions, “The news around the trade lanes is she has taken over previous islands with very little fight.  It is like they went out of their way to bend the knee to Stormheart.  Those islands gave her the place, lock, stock, and barrel, just because she arrived with some ancient symbol.  Mad, isn’t it?”

         “Wait.  What did you just say?” I can hardly believe it.  “Would you happen to know what this ancient symbol looks like?”

         “Basically, the look of the helm of a ship, but the handles have very specific symbols on them.  And in the center is Stormheart’s seal.”

         My shoulders drop at his exact description, “We had that ancient symbol in our possession.  Yet, probably playing right into Stormheart’s plan, I gave ancient heirloom to her.”

         “Handed the same situation,” Hiccup comforts.  “We all would have done the same.  She may think she forced your hand, but it was not a hard decision at all.”

         “Thanks,” I sigh frustrated.

         “Those could just be rumors of what Stormheart did, of course, but with all that has happened, I believe it,” Hiccup included.  “If it is true she did it to other islands, we’re going to have to figure something out soon before she does it again.

         With that, nearly everyone disperses, Astrid and Eret remain.  When Annabeth walks away she looks back wondering why I am anchored in my stance.  Not even bothering to ask why, she continues on.

         Eret and Astrid take notice, Eret inquires, “I’m just a Dragon Wrangler, but even two dragons can have a rift between them.”

         “You need to work on some of your people skills,” I let out a dry chuckle, then sigh now frustrated with Annabeth.  “But, yes Eret, you are right.  That is one mystery that I can’t figure out.”

         “My friend,” Eret responds.  “I’m afraid you will be figuring that one out until the end of time.  That is why I haven’t married yet, no offense, lass.”

         “Hmph,” Astrid folds her arms.  She then turns her attention to me, “So much for not having a war on hands.”

         “Tell me about it,” I agree in reference to Harald’s little visit he made to Berk recently.

         “To attack us anyway, Stormheart and he knew we would have to defend,” Astrid remarks.

         “Every single thing we did today, thinking it was a choice of our own, Stormheart planned for it and changed accordingly,” I say as the frustration mounts.  “Before our duel started, Harald told me and my friends, ‘We’re always one step ahead.’  How far are we exactly behind?”

         Eret states, “To rectify that, we will do exactly what Hiccup said.  After you connected figured out what Stormheart did today, I thought of doing some intel gathering to see just how much her power is right now.  If you want, I will meet you two at the docs.”

         “Why the docs?” I question.  “When we can just fly there?”

         “Jarl,” Astrid corrects.  “You know we have never been able to fly dragons to Auction Island…  For obvious reasons.  What makes you think now is any different?”

         “Stormheart has essentially been reading my thoughts, maybe this is one decision she planned for too,” I reply.  “And if she didn’t, I’m now curious to now if someone can think of something she won’t.”

         All in agreement, we catch back up to Hiccup to tell him what we are going to do.  While he does not agree with the directness, he does admit we need some answers and wants to come along.  In fact, the other Dragon Riders come along too.  The rest of my crew is pretty worn out either from the fighting they did on multiple islands today or the added fight when they got back to Berk.  Dawn told Eret to go punch Harald for her.  They both will have to wait in line.

         Annabeth stood by as everyone else started to leave.  For a brief moment, both of us were facing each other.

         Thinking she will not ask, I ask her, “Will you come with us?”

         “Sure,” is her reply.

         She did not seem all too excited to go see Stormheart.  The cauldron inside of me is boiling over with frustration and anger all pointed at Stormheart right now.

         How is Annabeth so calm right now?

         Before we leave, I send a Terror Mail to Berserker Island saying that Stormheart will not be attacking.  And if they have already been attacked, then I pray they are safe.  And if no one has attacked, keep the Berserkers calm before they start fighting themselves.

         Within ten minutes, the five of us are in the air and flying north.  Another hour of flying and nearing dusk, we start to see Auction Island on the horizon.  Already, Stormheart’s presence is littered across the island with banners, archways, and towers.

         “Wow.  This is…  Wow,” Astrid could not believe her eyes.  “Stormheart moved fast.”

         Snotlout points out Harald at the top of the cliff overlooking the docks, “They must be expecting us.  Look:  There’s that snake Harald, taunting us with his new victory.  I’d like to send him slithering for a hole to hide in, just like we did at Berk.  Um, maybe you should talk to him and not me.  If I go up there to talk, I don’t think I’d be able to hold myself back.  I’m not saying I couldn’t handle myself, but Hiccup’s trying to get me to turn over a new leaf.”

         “It’s hard to turn over a new leaf when someone keeps stepping on it,” I comment.  “I might punch Harald in the face if he snarks off at me.”

         Hiccup replies, “And I thought I would have to worry about the Twins or Snotlout coming.”

         We land in front of Harald, who then greets, “We’ve been expecting you.”

         Some other vikings from Auction Island came up to hold our dragons as we dismount, all of them growled at them.

         Hiccup stated, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  Just be glad we are here without firing a shot in retaliation for what you tried to do to Berk.”

          “Welcome to the new Auction Island!” Harald spreads his arms out.  “Stormheart has assumed her rightful place as ruler.”

         Our eyes widen upon the reveal.

         “You see, her ancestors once ruled here centuries ago.  When Stormheart returned with the ancestral symbol, all of Auction Island bowed to her as the leader.  I’m sure many more islands in the archipelago will see the light soon enough.”

         He paused as we give him the look of, “That won’t happen if we can help it.”  And he knows it.  He may work for Stormheart, but he is still out for himself.

         “Oh – Stormheart tells me you were instrumental in getting her artifact back.  Our eternal thanks for your help.”

         I take a step towards Harald, Hiccup stops me.  The step also invited the men around Harald to take a step forward.

         “Please do give my best regards to Asvord.” Harald merely puts his hand up waving off his men.  “There are no hard feelings about our fight at Berk, I hope?  I was only distracting you while Stormheart made her move here.  She has no ill will towards you or Hiccup.  You may visit the island as you wish, as long as you abide by the rules of her rain.”

         “The only hail of her reign we will give her, is if the weather rains on her parade with hail,” I manage to quip.

         Harald lets out a small chuckle, “I see you brought the Berserker Chief with you, well, heir that is.  Good.  That will save us a trip.  Tell Dagur that we crossed each other recently over a miscommunication; Stormheart believed that his wife held the secret route to Vanaheim.  We found our own way, of course.  Please let him know that we are sorry for putting him through such an inconvenience.”

         Under my breath, I snap back, “I’m sure you are.”

         Annabeth spoke for Dagur, “A ‘miscommunication,’ was it?  You should know this about Dagur, he is exactly the type to hold grudges.  Just ask Hiccup about all about it.  Just you wait.  With that said, by the looks of this place, she certainly knows censored to put her stamp on things, doesn’t she?  For better or worse, Stormheart can inspire those around her.”

         Harald nodded, “Spoken like a true leader.  Maybe you will be a great chieftess one day after all.”

         Annabeth reminded, “Don’t get comfortable with the professional courtesy.  Stormheart attacked the wife of a Berserker Chief.  She attacked a Berserker ship.  Be sure to tell Stormheart, we too can be inspired…  To stop her.”

         “As I can see, you anticipated us allowing your dragons onto our island,” Harald folded his arms.  “But if you have any ideas of attacking Stormheart on this island…  Well, let’s just say you need to do a better job of where you pick a fight.”

         More men started to appear from different directions.  Hiccup immediately stepped forward between Harald and me.

         “Wait, wait.  If the people of Auction Island wanted this, we can’t stop them from choosing Stormheart.  The people want her as their leader, then it sounds like a peaceful transition of power.  Who are we to stick our noses into things?”

         After hearing this, Harald again waves them off.

         “There will be no fighting, tonight,” Hiccup looks at my crew as well as his gang.  “Right?”

         None of us answer.

         “I’ll take that as a yes,” Harald replies.

         “I’m sure that Stormheart was expecting more than us stopping by for a friendly scuffle,” I state.  “We must not keep the woman waiting.”

         Harald smiles, “You are starting to understand.  Follow me.”

         “You guys go ahead,” Eret says.  “I’ll stay with the dragons.”

         Snotlout hurriedly also volunteered, “I’ll stay too.”

         “Well, if you’re staying,” Fishlegs said, looking nervous from the thought of leaving his dragon’s side -for both their sakes.  “I’ll stay too.  Wouldn’t want Meatlug to worry about where I am.  She can get anxious surrounded by rocks she’s not used to.”

         Snotlout ran over to Fishlegs, whispering, “What are you doing, Fish-face?  I can keep an eye on things.”

         “Why should you stay when Eret said he’d stay?” questioned Fishlegs.

         “Why don’t you go shopping for rocks?” Snotlout no longer hid the fact he wanted Fishlegs to go.

         Tuffnut echoed, “We can go shopping here now?  Awesome!  Come on, sis.”

         Hiccup called out, “No, don’t.  We…,” it was too late.  The Twins had already bolted to the nearest shop.  “Don’t want to cause trouble.  Snotlout and Fishlegs, you stay with the dragons.  Eret can go watch the Twins.”

         “Why would you pick him?” Snotlout objected.  “When I am more qualified then he is.  I can watch the Twins.”

         “When have you ever wanted to watch the Twins?” Hiccup talks with his hands, pointing them at Snotlout.  “Fine.  You go watch the Twins.  Eret and Fishlegs can watch the dragons.  You can’t do both.”

         Eret steps in, laying his hand on Snotlout’s shoulder, “Why don’t we both go watch the Thorstons.  Maybe you can teach me about how you wrangled Hookfang.  I’m sure it was a most difficult task.”

         “Yeah…  Yeah,” Snotlout became excited but then puffed up.  “It was totally dangerous.  You see-.”

         Hiccup facepalmed and sighed

         Harald cracks, “Berk’s finest.”

         He walked away, so Hiccup, Astrid, Annabeth, and I follow.  Harald leads us up a ramp incline, slightly spiraling up to the right.  At the top of the highest point on the island, there stands Stormheart’s throne.  A generous chair with an over abundance of decorations and ornaments signifying we are in the presence of a chief or chieftess.  The guards demand we kneel in Nikora Stormheart’s presence.

         “That won’t be necessary,” she sternly orders, waving her staff to direct her guards.  She then addresses the four of us.  “Greetings, Hiccup Haddock, Astrid Hofferson, Jarl and Annabeth Everson,” Stormheart pauses while we come to the first steps.  “I see you were victorious in battle.”

         Astrid snaps, “No thanks to you and your forces.”

         “Well, they weren’t my forces to begin with,” Stormheart informs.  “Hired help brought in only to serve the purpose of being expendable.  You will find that some of them were wanted criminals and have a bounty on them.  You could make quite a bit of gold turning them in.”

         While shocked to hear it, from what Eret mentioned, it makes sense now.

         “You knew you couldn’t beat us,” Hiccup figured out too.  “So, you set up hired mercenaries and pirates to do your dirty work only to take the fall when you inevitably lost.”

         “Strong words coming from the Chief of Berk,” she points out.  “But I wouldn’t expect anything else from the son of Stoick the Vast.  Many called him weak, but no one knew the man he be and the father he became…  I am sorry for your loss.”

         Empathy is something I was not expecting from her.  Guess she is just selective with her viking qualities, or lack thereof.

         The remark relaxes Hiccup, “Thank you for your concern.  However, you show very little signs of respect for blatantly attacking his home.”

         “Had I wanted to take Berk down,” Stormheart stood up.  “You island would have been flattened months ago.”

         There went the relaxed Hiccup back to tense Hiccup.

         “I know Berk’s strength in her dragons and her allies.  I knew they all would not let me take Auction Island back to be in the rightful hands.  So, I kept all of you busy while I sailed here and took my place upon the throne.  It has not been led by a Stormheart in generations.  It has been far too long since then, so years ago, I planned my return.  My father died from an illness, longing for his former home his great-grandfather had before him.  This is a new day for the Barbaric Archipelago.”

         She steps down to us, “I would like to invite all the leaders and chiefs of the lands to celebrate this momentous occasion.  Couriers and messengers have been dispatched to invite everyone for a summit.  This will be an opportunity for all to meet each other.  To show there is no ill will towards Berk, I would like to personally invite Hiccup Haddock the III, Chief of the Hooligan Tribe along with Astrid Hofferson.”

         Both of them, are stunned at the rather generous offer by Stormheart and do not know what to say right away.

         Hiccup’s answer finally comes, “We would be honored to attend.”

         Stormheart turned to me, “Jarl and Annabeth Everson, heir to the Berserker Throne, I would like to formally invite the two of you to also join us.”

         Doubly stunned now.

         “I would invite Dagur, but I think we can all agree that he doesn’t have the best of judgment when dealing with delicate matters,” while she may have a point, she is up to something.  “The event will be held one week from tomorrow in our Banquet Hall.  It will be quite formal, so I hope you have something more than your groom attire and your bridal gown.”

         The laugh she made came across in a snide way.

         A guard standing by muttered, “We have a banquet hall?”

         “We will…  Once I build it,” she remarks resuming her positing on the throne.

         I assume she means once her men build it for her.

         “I am eagerly awaiting the day, Jarl,” Stormheart leans on an armrest.  “We have much to discuss.  But before you all leave, I must speak with Jarl.  Alone.”

         Still trying to process everything, I do tell the others, “I’ll catch up with you guys at the docks.”

         Annabeth, Astrid, and Hiccup depart.

         Stormheart looks around her and states in a harsh tone, “Leave us.”

         The guards and even Harald do so.

         Once alone, she looks me square in the eye, “Jarl Everson.  You sir are something I never could have seen being in my way.”

         “Thanks.  I think.”

         “No, I mean it the sincerest way possible.  I have been planning this conquest for years,” she sets her staff down, slowly walking down.  “Accounting for every variable possible, amassing the might currently at my disposal.  Everything was accounted for…  Except for you,” now eye level with me.  “I cannot say much right now.  But I need your help on a few things, the first of being I have a traitor in my midst.”

         I quip, “Why not start with Harald?  He’s a professional traitor.”

         “While Harald is many things, he has been loyal to me,” she declares.  “What I have witnessed is the rise of a mysterious figure disrupting both Dragon Hunter operations, my own, and even general commerce all-across the archipelago.  This viking remains in the darkness, never shows themselves, but has further reach than even I do.”

         “As I have said before,” she continues.  “I do not want to be an enemy.  Hiccup and I may never be allies, but you and the Berserkers I admire.  To have the largest fleet in the archipelago while finding peace with many allies, it is a feat quite rare.  This mysterious figure is a threat to us all.  While we both have very different agendas, a threat like this cannot go unchecked.”

         I ask, “What do you want me to do about it?  Frankly, I do not want to help at all.”

         “I think you will when I tell what I have found this figure is after.”

         “What would that be?”

         “The Shadow Dragon!”

         I had not been paying attention much, but at mention of it, I start to, “I’m listening.”

         “After some digging of my own, I have found another viking who could possibly be working with this figure.  I have sent trackers after him many times.  But this viking is very elusive.  From his description, I have finally identified him:  Skygge Skyjult Fiende.”

         “I see my suspicions are true,” she reacts to my changed expression.  “I may have further shocking news.”

         Stormheart paused.  The look on her face almost appears as genuine remorse, nothing fake about it.

         “One of my trackers followed Skygge down to the southern reaches of the archipelago.  They were able to eavesdrop on a meeting Skygge had.  From my own grapevines in trading and the processing of goods, Skygge has been openly seeking to set up a meeting with someone of important.  I had assumed it was this mysterious figure.  If I could find the identity of this figure, I would be able to confront them.  Thinking Skygge was close to setting up a meeting, I had him tracked.  The viking he actually met shocked me,” she waits again, taking a deep breath.  “Jarl, honestly, I don’t know how to tell you this…  But it was your wife, Annabeth.”

         “Okay, we are done here,” I turned to walk away.

         “Jarl!” she ordered, grabbed my arm, and stood in front of me.  “For once, I am telling you the straight truth.”

         “Oh, so you’ve lied to me in the past,” I laugh.  “What gives me any reason to believe you aren’t just trying to divide my own ranks, let alone my marriage?”

         “I will tell you,” her tone resumed its seriousness.  “Skygge had addressed her, guessing she had returned to her parents’ island to try and rejoin them.  Annabeth seemed to be frozen in place, rightfully fearful of him.  Skygge was overly confident in the information he revealed, admitting he is fully after the Shadow Dragon.  But then offering an ultimatum, ‘As I have said before, I cannot find the Shadow Dragon without you.  If you help me find it, I will leave your life and even the archipelago forever.’  Questioning his truthfulness as you did me, Skygge in answer drew one of his daggers.  Instead of threatening her with it, he turned it on himself, grabbing Annabeth’s hand, and placing it on the dagger, saying, ‘Or you could end your pain and suffering, right here, right now, if you run me through.  No one would care that I’m gone, no one would know it either, no one would learn the Shadow Dragon secret I know, the Shadow Dragon itself would never be found, and I would be out of your life, permanently.’  Annabeth did not do it.  Skygge chuckled and backed away, ‘I will be in touch.’”

         Stormheart finished, but after seeing my speechless face, she added, “Don’t cloud your vision by your heart.  Use your gifted mind to look past the distractions and find the truth you are unwilling to see.”

         My mind starts to spin as the conflicts arise, “You- You talk as one witnessing this.”

         “Not I, but Harald.  Upon the conclusion of his report, he made it clear that of all the things he has done to you, he would have never had the gull of going to Annabeth let alone threatening her where she stood, daring her to kill him.  Sure, he has lured Annabeth before and kidnapped her, but Harald lives by a code.  There are some things that even he would never do.  It was his idea to create this banquet to invite all of the leaders of the Barbaric Archipelago, inviting even the worst in your eyes the lands and seas have to offer.  By inviting so many vikings, traders, pirates, buccaneers, and mercenaries, the amount of people would make a secret meeting between two people much easier.  Alliances are often forged or broken when two people can talk.  This would be too good of an opportunity for Skygge to pass up not to attempt at meeting this mysterious figure.  This figure may not show up, yet I don’t think even he could resist the opportunity either.”

         Stormheart concludes, “How exactly your wife fits into this, you and I may not know.  But what we both know is that this mysterious figure could cause a larger shift of power than even I have.  Hiccup said it himself it was, ‘a peaceful transition of power.’  From the rumors, grapevines, and attacks on trading in both the public and black market, this mysterious figure keeps appearing in some capacity.  This might be the greatest chance either of us have in taking them out of the equation.  But know this, Jarl.  I cannot guarantee anyone’s safety from anyone else attending.  No one else would dare challenge me on my ancestral island.  But if you are anyone else shows any signs of hostility towards me, I will act against them.  With the information I have given you, I am sure you will also try to apprehend this mysterious figure.  Between the two of us, I am confident we will put a stop to a devastating chaos this archipelago may never recover from.  I wish you well and I hope to see you next week.”

         My feet feeling like lead weights and my head a helium balloon, I exit Stormheart’s presence only after moving out of sight and hearing to collapse to my knees.  My mind spinning out of control and my Heart being twisted inside of me.

         “Why is this all happening?”

Chapter 27

Another Agenda

httyyd's picture
httyyd
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

It won't let me edit the thread.

 

So I'll put this here.

 

Instead of the first music mix, use this one:

VANGUARD - Best of Epic Music Mix | Powerful Action Orchestral Music - Jo Blankenburg

 

The other one was too hard rock style than I wanted.  I wanted more orchestra epicness.