When I Needed You


Part One

"One more search. Before the ice sets in." Winthrop drained his mug and set it down on the wooden table. The great hall was nearly empty, save his good friend, his right-hand man—if only because the man had no left hand anymore—who sat with him, sharing a drink before it was time to set sail again.

Regan drained his own tankard and then scraped back the bench. "I'll pack my braies."

Win shook his head. It would be great to have Regan with him, as usual. He was fearless on the battlefield, but if they actually found the nest, well, he needed Regan to stay home with his son. "No. I need you to stay and train some new recruits."

"Oh, perfect." Regan sat back down. "And while I'm busy, Jim can cover for me. Molten steel, razor sharp blades, lots of time to himself ... what could possibly go wrong?"

Win was worried. Really worried. Jim was not your typical Viking. "What am I going to do with him, Regan?"

Regan shrugged. "Put him in training with the others."

Win looked at him sharply. "No, I'm serious."

"So am I." Regan rested his elbow on the table, his green eyes equally serious.

Win glared back at him. "He'd be killed before you let the first dragon out of its cage."

Regan waved his arm in the air dismissively. "You don't know that."

"I do know that, actually," Win insisted. Jim, in the dragon arena? He wouldn't last five seconds.

"No, you don't." Regan stared into the empty tankard attached to the hook where his hand had once been, probably wishing there was a wee bit more mead left in it.

Win thought of pouring them another round, but he had to get an early start tomorrow. And while he trusted Regan to look after his boy, he couldn't have him training the kid to kill dragons. His voice became more forceful. "No, actually, I do."

Regan turned and shouted at him. "No. You don't!"

Win stood up and started pacing. Most people wouldn't dare argue with him, but Regan wasn't most people. "Listen, Regan. You know what he's like. From the time he could crawl he's been ... different. He doesn't listen."

"That runs in the family," Regan mumbled under his breath.

Win went on gesturing with his arms as he spoke. "He has the attention span of a sparrow. I take him fishing and he goes hunting for ... for trolls."

"Trolls exist!" Regan interjected. He turned around in his seat to face Win. "They steal your socks. But only the left ones. What's with that?"

"When I was a boy " Win started, ignoring Regan's thoughts on trolls.

"Uh oh. Here we go." Regan grumbled a bit more loudly this time. He gazed back into his tankard.

Again, Win ignored the interruption. "My father told me to bang my head against a rock. And I did it."

As Win was talking, he noticed Regan twirl the last few drops of mead in his mug and then lift it to drink, patting the bottom of the tankard with his good hand to get those drops to spill into his mouth.

Win was pacing back toward him again. "I thought it was crazy, but I didn't question him. And you know what happened?"

"You got a headache." Regan stared at him as he spoke, but it didn't seem like he was paying attention.

"That rock split in two. It taught me what a Viking could do, Regan. He could crush mountains, level forests, tame seas! Even as a boy, I knew what I was, what I had to become." Win paused and sat back down next to Regan. "Jim is not that boy."

"You can't stop him, Win. You can only prepare him." Regan's green eyes bore into his own. "Look, I know it seems hopeless. But, the truth is, you won't always be around to protect him. He's going to go out there again. He's probably out there now."

Both men turned to stare at the door. Win could just imagine Jim out there, trying to build some sort of contraption that could bring down a dragon. His last one hadn't been any success, and he was certain whatever his son was trying now, it would fail, too. He only hoped it wouldn't cost Jim his life.

 

Jim watched nervously as Regan raised the massive, iron gate that led to the vast stone arena. "Welcome to dragon training!"

He and the other recruits filed through the gate and onto the arena floor. They gazed around them, taking in the walls covered in the scorched silhouettes of blasted Vikings. It was both grim and awe-inspiring. Jim swallowed. He did not want to do this. Not now. A week ago? Sure, no problem. But, since meeting Jupiter, how could he possibly go through with ... with this?

"No turning back," one of the students declared. She was new in town, and her brown hair had tints of gold and red in it, making it look like honey was flowing down her back. Her build was dainty, and Jim couldn't picture her as a dragon slayer.

"I hope I get some serious burns." Martin Belden grinned.

Trixie, his younger sister, by just under a year, whooped. "I'm hoping for some mauling. Like on my shoulder or lower back."

I'll maul you, if you like. Jim didn't know what it was about that rambunctious curly-haired blonde, but he thought she was pretty. And tough. Very tough. His thoughts about mauling her were a joke, of course. She would chew him up and spit him out if he so much as tried to lay a finger on her.

Another beautiful girl in the arena, the dark-haired girl with violet eyes, nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it's only fun if you get a scar out of it."

Jim knew her name was Diana, though he had never actually talked to her before.

But right now his attention was focused on Trixie. He spoke with false bravado, hoping desperately to impress her. "No kidding, right? Pain. Love it."

Mart turned around, his blue eyes narrowing in disdain. "Oh, great. Who let him in?"

"Let's get started!" Regan interrupted any further mumbling and groaning about Jim being part of the class. "The recruit who does best will win the honor of killing his or her first dragon in front of the entire village."

"Jim already killed a Night Fury, so does that disqualify him or ...?" Regan's nephew, a dark-haired boy with charming good looks, winked at Diana.

Trixie snickered. "Good one, Dan."

Jim held back a sigh. He had to go and brag that he'd shot down the Night Fury. But that was before he met Jupiter. Now he wished he hadn't said anything, especially since he couldn't produce it, so of course no one believed him. And there was no way he was going to lead anyone to the beast. They'd kill him. Wasn't that why they were here today? To kill dragons. Jim's stomach turned again at the thought.

The other six students walked further into the arena. Regan put a reassuring arm around Jim's shoulder. "Don't worry. You're small and you're weak. That'll make you less of a target." He ushered Jim forward with him to stand in line with the other teens. "They'll see you as sick or insane and go after the more Viking-like students instead."

Way to make me feel better. Can I go home now? Jim sighed but stood in a line with the others.

Regan moved to stand in front of the small class. With his hooked-hand, he gestured to the wall of the arena. "Behind these doors are just a few of the many species you will learn to fight."

Trixie bounced up and down, chortling with excitement, her blonde curls tumbling into her eyes.

Regan pointed to the first door. "The Deadly Nadder."

Mart and Trixie's older, dark-haired brother, Brian, spoke calmly. "Speed eight. Armor sixteen."

Regan moved on to the next door. "The Hideous Zippleback."

"Plus eleven stealth. Times two." Brian apparently had all the stats on the dragons memorized.

"The Monstrous Nightmare." The door behind their instructor rattled and shook.

Brian continued reciting stats. "Firepower fifteen."

A ferocious sounding shriek came from the fourth door, its bolts rattling as Regan spoke. "The Terrible Terror."

"Attack eight. Venom twelve." Brian smiled widely.

Regan turned to Brian, putting his hands—well, hand and hook—on his hips. "Will you stop that?!" he thundered. A growl came from behind the fifth door. Regan immediately calmed down and went back to announcing the species. "And ... the Gronckle." Regan moved closer to the door.

"Jaw strength, eight." Brian barely whispered it, but Jim heard him.

Regan put his hand on the lever that would raise the cross bar bolting the door shut.

"Whoa, wait!" Dan backed up nervously. "Aren't you gonna teach us first?!"

Their redheaded instructor just grinned. "I believe in learning on the job." With that, he pulled the lever down and the door opened. The Gronckle flew out, growling and ready to attack.

The seven teens scrambled in every direction.

Regan just continued lecturing as if there was nothing unusual about a fat green dragon flying around the arena. Then again, Jim thought, to Regan, there probably was nothing unusual about it.

"Today is about survival," the large, red-headed Viking announced. "If you get blasted, you're dead. Quick, what's the first thing you're going to need?"

"A doctor?" Jim ventured.

Next to him, 'Honey', as he nicknamed her in his head, giggled. "If you're dead, a doctor won't help."

"Plus five speed," Brian mumbled as he ran off.

"A shield." Diana glanced around the arena, holding her ground rather than running.

Regan pointed at her. "Shields. Go."

The teens headed toward the neatly stacked shields.

"Your most important piece of equipment is your shield. If you must make a choice between a sword and a shield, take the shield."

The neat stack soon morphed into a disorganized pile as the students started to reach for them. Jim struggled to lift one of the heavy shields, embarrassed that even Honey seemed to have no trouble grabbing a shield and sliding her arm through the straps. Regan ran to him and helped him hoist it onto his arm, and then sent him running, the shield protecting him from the blast of the attacking Gronckle.

Trixie and Mart continued to hunt through the pile of shields. One of them had two skulls painted on it, and they both reached for it at the same time.

"Remove your extremities from my escutcheon." Mart pulled on the shield.

"There are like a million shields!" Trixie pulled on it from the other end, refusing to let go.

Mart pointed to a different shield. "Take that one, then. It has a flower on it. Girls like flowers."

Trixie managed to get the shield from him when he had let one hand go. She lifted it and bashed Mart over the head. "Gleeps! Now this one has blood on it."

Mart tried to grab it back. The Gronckle took aim at the distracted siblings and blasted a fiery ball at them. The shield fell out of their hands and the two almost-twins fell to the floor, reeling.

Regan pointed at them. "Mart, Trixie, you're out!"

"What?" they both asked, a bit dazed from the hit.

"Those shields are good for another thing. Noise." Regan motioned for them to use their axes to bang against the shields. "Make lots of it to throw off a dragon's aim."

The Gronckle shook its head as if it were confused.

Regan continued his lecture. "All dragons have a limited number of shots. How many does a Gronckle have?"

"Five!" Dan answered.

"No, six," Brian corrected automatically.

"Correct, six. That means one of you should make it through the training without being hit." Regan grinned.

"I don't think Moms would—" The dragon let out a blast, knocking Brian's shield out of his hands.

"Brian, you're out." Regan gestured at him to get out of the fighting area. He turned and spotted Jim hiding behind the open gate of the dragon's prison. "Jim, get in there!" Regan shoved Jim into the middle of the arena.

He stumbled next to Honey and Diana, both of whom looked alert and ready to dodge a blast.

Dan strolled up beside them and smiled at the girls, ignoring Jim. "So, anyway, I'm moving into my uncle's basement. You ladies should come by some time. You look like you work out—"

Di disregarded him, paying more attention to the dragon. She cartwheeled out of the way just as the Gronckle's blast shot past her. Honey dodged to the other side, lifting her shield to protect herself, and Jim ran with her. The blast hit directly on Dan's shield and he fell onto his back.

"Dan, you're done!" Regan called out.

The Gronckle turned around and let out another blast of flame. Honey stumbled and fell, and the blast of the hit knocked Jim's shield out of his hands. Jim chased after his shield as it rolled across the arena.

"Madeleine, out!" Regan's voice boomed. "One shot left!"

Jim picked up his shield and glanced at Diana. "So ... I guess it's just you and me." Jim gave her an awkward smile. He wished it was Trixie next to him, instead.

The dragon spotted them and flew straight at the pair.

"Nope, just you." Diana did a quick dive-roll out of the way.

The dragon pinned the redhead to the wall and opened its mouth, ready to deliver its final blast at point-blank range.

"Jim!!" Regan ran over to him and used his hook to grab the Gronckle's mouth and turn its head away from the boy. The dragon's head jerked back and the fiery blast hit the stone wall just above Jim's head. "And that's six!" He led the dragon back to the dungeon, appearing calm, but with a tell-tale shaking of his good leg. "Go back to bed ya overgrown sausage! You'll get another chance, don't you worry." He slammed the gate shut and pushed the bar into place, locking away the dragon.

Jim stood in shock as Regan ended the training session. He could've been killed, he should've been killed.

"—axes need to be wiped down and hung neatly—" Regan continued to explain how to properly clean and then store their equipment.

Jim barely heard the words through the roar still ringing in his ears. He knew Regan's penchant for having everything in its proper place. He tuned out the instructor, his mind still filled with both fear and wonder. Would the Gronckle really have delivered the death strike, or was it a bluff, much like Jupiter's warning attack on him had been?

 

"All right. Where did Diana go wrong in the ring today?" Regan looked at the young recruits seated around the table as they gathered for dinner after the near-disastrous lesson.

"I mistimed my somersault dive," Diana admitted. "It was sloppy and threw off my reverse tumble."

Trixie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, we noticed."

Dan grabbed Diana's hand. "No, no, you were great. That was so ... 'Di'."

"She's right." Regan, who was standing behind her, put a hand on her shoulder. "You have to be tough on yourselves."

Jim tried to put his plate down next to Dan's. Dan shoved it away, nearly making it fall on the floor.

"And where did Jim go wrong?" Regan continued.

"He showed up." Trixie snickered.

"He circumvented being gormandized by the Gronckle," Mart added with a snide tone, as if he wished Jim hadn't escaped the dragon's blast.

Jim gave up trying to sit with the tougher kids. He headed over to the vacant table next to them.

"He's never where he should be." Diana glared at him as he walked by.

Brian started to stand up, presumably to join the outcast teen, but the others motioned for him to sit back down.

Honey—Madeleine, Jim corrected in his mind—sat down next to him, timidly. He smiled at the newcomer, grateful she was willing to sit with him.

"Thank you, Di. You need to live and breathe this stuff." Regan reached into a sack on the table and pulled out a tome. He dropped it on the table with a thud. "The Dragon Manual. Everything we know about every dragon we know of." From outside, a rumble of thunder sounded loudly. "There'll be no attacks tonight. Study up." Regan headed out of the room.

"Wait. You mean read? While we're still alive?" Trixie groaned.

"Why read words when you can just kill the stuff the words tell you stuff about?" Dan waggled his eyebrows, presumably hoping to impress the girls.

"Oh, I've read it. Seven times!" Brian smiled at the group. "There's this water dragon that sprays boiling water at your face. And there's this other one that buries itself for a week."

The other teens stared at Brian as he continued going on about all the different types of dragons.

"Yeah, that sounds great, brother-mine." Mart held his hand up and pinched the fingers together, gesturing to Brian to stop talking. "There was a chance I was going to read that, but now you've spoiled it for me."

Dan jumped up from the table. "You guys read. I'll go kill stuff."

The three siblings stood up and followed Dan out of the room. Brian kept talking as they walked out. "Oh, and there's this other one that has these spines that look like trees ...."

Jim turned to the two girls left in the room with him. "So, I guess we'll share?"

"Already read it." Di pushed the book towards his table.

Honey shook her head. "My father made me read it before I joined the class."

"All mine then."

Di rolled her eyes at him. "Coming, Madeleine?"

The honey-haired girl nodded and, with an apologetic glance at Jim, she stood up and started walking with Diana.

Great. Everyone thought he was the joke of the class. He wasn't good in battle, and he knew now he would never be able to kill a dragon, and they all seemed to know that, too. Even the new girl. But at least she had sat with him. "So, okay, I'll see you—"

The door shut behind the two girls with a slam.

"Tomorrow." Jim sighed. He reached over the gap in the tables and grabbed the book. Peering at the pages by candlelight, he began to read. He may not be able to kill a dragon, but he could find out more about them.

"Dragon classifications: strike class, fear class, mystery class." Jim turned the page. "Thunderdrum." He heard another rumble of thunder from outside, this time sounding a little further away. "Fitting." He looked back down at the book, reading silently to himself. "This reclusive dragon inhabits sea caves and dark tide pools. When startled, the Thunderdrum produces a concussive sound that can kill a man at close range. Extremely dangerous. Kill on sight."

Jim's eyes drifted to a lurid illustration of decapitated Vikings. "Timberjack. This gigantic creature has razor-sharp wings that can slice through full-grown trees. Extremely dangerous. Kill on sight."

He turned the page. "Scauldron. Sprays scalding water at its victim. Extremely dangerous. Kill on sight." He continued to flip through the pages, barely reading any of the words. They were all pretty much the same and what was written about the dragons wasn't what he wanted to learn. "Gronckle, Zippleback, the Skrill, Bone Knapper, Whispering Death." He shook his head. "Burns its victims; buries its victims; chokes its victims; turns its victims inside-out. Extremely dangerous. Extremely dangerous. Kill on sight. Kill on sight. Kill on sight."

He finally landed upon the page he'd been looking for. "Night Fury." The page was blank; no illustrations, hardly any words. "Speed unknown. Size unknown. The unholy offspring of lightning and death itself. Never engage this dragon. Your only chance: hide and pray it does not find you."

Jim pulled his sketch book out of his vest and turned to the drawing of Jupiter. But Jupiter didn't kill me, and he had plenty of opportunities to do so.



Prologue  

Author's Notes:

Word count: 3,392

Eleven years! I still can't believe it ....

Huge thanks to both Bonnie H and Trish B for editing this for me and for their friendship and support. Their corrections and suggestions were super helpful. Thank you, ladies! (((hugs)))

This is a continuation of a CWE #6, submitted too late to qualify. If you haven't read the prologue which I posted—gleeps! I was going to say 'last year' and then I checked the actual date—in October of 2013, you can navigate back to it by the link right above these notes.

Starring:

  • Jim Frayne as Hiccup
  • Jupiter as Toothless

in How to Train Your Dragon

Also starring:

  • Win Frayne as Stoick the Vast
  • Bill Regan as Gobber
  • Diana Lynch as Astrid
  • Trixie Belden as Ruffnut
  • Mart Belden as Tuffnut
  • Brian Belden as Fishlegs
  • Dan Mangan as Snotlout

And introducing:

  • Madeleine Wheeler as Honey

 

Relationships have changed to better fit the cast. Mart and Trixie are almost-twins instead of actual twins, Brian is their older brother, and Dan is Regan's nephew. Honey has been added to the cast because I just couldn't leave her out, and I couldn't very well make her Astrid and leave Di out, either. ;)

As this is a CWE6, the majority of the dialogue is credited to the writers of the original movie and/or the author of the book, Cressida Cowell.

All copyrighted material and characters are used with no permission whatsoever but with tons of love and admiration.


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