What Will You Sacrifice? - Chapter 12 - Double_Trouble_36 (2024)

Chapter Text

No about of coverage of bloody deaths drawn out, edited and replayed from previous games prepared Hiccup for the bone-shattering sound of five canons in the sky.

The anthem began to play. Groaning, he pulled himself out of his sleeping bag and pushed Toothless’s wing to the side so he could see the sky. He growled at him, but shifted his wing and let Hiccup clamber out of his paws.

Hiccup glanced around, and saw the twins and Fishlegs emerging from their sleeping bags like the butterflies Hiccup’s mother hatched in the garden back in Twelve. It might’ve been the omniscient ache in his chest that was there since his name got called, but everything made him think of home.

The Capitol seal materialised in the sky, defying his heartache; a taunting reminder that he wasn’t home. Eret’s voice congratulating the “remaining tributes” a reminder he might never see home again.

The first tribute was Ingrid, Sar’s partner. Hiccup’s heart dropped. If she was dead, then- could Sar be...

Then, there was Sam from District Eight. Hiccup didn’t know him, but he could only assume he died in the reaping. His youthful face stared into his very soul, though he was dead now. Sky blue eyes pierced Hiccup’s green.

I could’ve saved him, he thought painfully. Or, more accurately, the Capitol could’ve saved him. The Capitol could’ve stopped the games decades ago.

Luitl from Ten’s face flashed in the sky. Ashy, grey skin that would’ve been a deep brown if he was healthy. Deep, brown hair. Hiccup fought to remember the details of his face. Luitl was a person. A dead person. Another tribute Hiccup had barely spoken to. Another life lost.

Then, it was Dahlia, intricate cornrows leading into two neat buns on her head. Her eyes were young and vibrant. Her stylist had placed an artificial flower behind one of her ears, a mockery of the real ones she knew- knew. Dahlia would never see her district again.

Focus, Hiccup. He pressed his knuckles into his eyes. He couldn’t afford to be emotional. Not now. Dahlia made four. There were five canons. One more person.

There was only one person it could be...

Hiccup shut his eyes, bracing himself. The sight of Sar’s face, serious and hopeful, felt like being pricked with needles all over. His district buddy, who he’d hoped against all odds that she and her friends would survive long enough to go home and have enough food for the first time in their lives.

Five dead. Five. Each one felt like a stab to the heart, a reminder flashing in his face that five people had died in one day, and he was trapped in the same place as heartless child killers. If he had been just a bit smarter, a bit stronger, maybe he could’ve made a bigger alliance, protected more people-

No. He couldn’t think like that. He had to stay alive, no matter what the cost. Even if it meant letting people die.

He turned around to see his team - are they allies yet? Should I ask? - all looking at him with soft eyes.

“Hiccup, I’m so sorry,” Fishlegs said. “It’s ok if you’re sad.”

“It’s fine. I’ll get some rest,” Hiccup said shortly, and burrowed down into his sleeping bag.

When he was very young, and his mother was weeping for her cousin killed in the bloodbaths of another game, he pressed a hand to her cheek and asked, in the once-childish way of his, “wha’s wrong mama?

My dear cousin is gone - killed in the hunger games. She was only seventeen. I will miss her dearly.

She pulled him into her arms, and whispered soft, strange words Hiccup didn’t yet understand. It wasn’t until next year’s games came around, and Hiccup was five years old, that her best friend was impaled with a sword and, in a voice thick with tears, she taught him the passing prayer.

Goodness Above,

Make their passing quick and their soul safe.

Remove them from war, hurt, pain and strafe.

Help them find peace in the trees and skies.

For those who are killed can never truly die.

He repeated it until he knew it by heart, then toddled off to his room and scribbled it down on his wall (they were out of paper) with a sharp stone. The words were hacked and uneven, and he whittled the words until they were legible when he was older, but the poem never changed.

Every time the games came around, and he and his mother watched them in silence on the projector, he snuck up to his room after every kill, knelt by the broken roof panel he called a window, and whispered the words. It felt thrilling, like a secret show of rebellion before he could even understand what rebellion truly meant.

He never could’ve imagined, for all his wishes for peace, that he would need them as much as he does now.

Goodness above,” he began to whisper. “Make their passings quick and their souls safe.” His breath rebounded against the heat of the awful high-tech-insulation bag, tickling his skin. “Remove them from war, hurt, pain and strafe. Help them find peace in the trees and skies.” He took a final, shaky breath. Tears rolled down his face, hot and stinging in the corners of his eyes. His private defiance in the face of the games. “For those who are killed can never truly die.

He wiped his face, now damp and sticky, with the cuff of his sleeve. Above everything else, the gamemakers had to make it stiflingly hot. Of course they did. The arena was a pleasantly warm temperature by day, but now it was night, it felt stifling. Hiccup was thankful they’d managed to find a water supply, or he’d have much more serious worries to deal with.

Serious worries like the dragon clinging onto him, tucking him beneath his wings.

He - Hiccup decided it was a male - had followed them since the clearing, prowling behind them like a shadow. Hiccup had a feeling they had only seen the tip of his capabilities. But he hadn’t tried to hurt them since. He even caught them a fish Tuffnut then skinned and roasted for lunch. so they let him tag along. Besides, he would help in a fight if they encountered any tributes. In fact, he would tip the scales of odds in their favour.

There was something else about him: a strange, daring pull. Hiccup let it swirl around his chest when he thought about what it would feel like to bond with the dragon - to know all its secrets he’d only been able to fathom from his mother’s whispers in his ear. To feed it, train it, to - dare he even imagine - fly on the dragon’s back. The games would be easy from up there, but also-

He would feel free. Just him, and the clouds, and-

Hm. He needed to name him. He shut his eyes, and thought back to the very first impression of him. What was he feeling other than terror? He was pure black, and he knew a lot of synonyms for that, but none of them felt right. He also knew a lot of synonyms for ‘fear’ as well, but that felt insulting, somehow, to such an incredible creature.

What was he doing? Pinning him down? Pin? No, too short. Roaring? Yes, he was roaring in his face, and Hiccup opened his scrunched eyes and noticed he was-

“Toothless,” Hiccup declared to the darkness of the cave.

“What?” Tuffnut mumbled sleepily.

“His name. It’s Toothless.”


The next morning, remarkably, they were alive and unharmed, so Hiccup packed up all his supplies and decided they would forage.

“Do we have to?” Tuffnut grumbled like he was being bugged about chores by his parents.

“I dunno, do you want to starve to death?” Hiccup deadpanned.

“Better than getting axed in the face,” Tuffnut said, but packed up without complaint. They decided to move on from their camp. It was better than coming back to the same place, or tributes could track them down. As they walked, Hiccup made a mental route in his head nonetheless, memorising the turnings that would lead them back there. Just in case, he told himself. But his head got lost in the endless repetition of soil underfoot and decided it didn’t matter.

Ruffnut and Tuffnut tossed acorns back and forth, silently cheering for victory when they managed to hit the other in the face. Fishlegs tried to scold them, but quickly gave up, and kept a keen eye out for any edible plants he was sure were safe.

It was from this mind-consuming task that his presence faded into the background of Hiccup’s mind. It startled him all the more when Fishlegs stopped, crying out in excitement.

“What is it?” Hiccup asked.

Fishlegs ran his hands along the tree trunk, humming gleefully. “Hiccup, do you know what this means?”

He had no clue what he was talking about. All Hiccup knew was that it was the happiest he’d seen Fishlegs since the games started, so he tried to show a similar level of enthusiasm. “No, I haven’t. But I’m excited to know!”

He and the twins stood behind him as he used Ruffnut’s spearhead to gouge some of the bark away, and held it between his fingers for them all to see.

“Willow bark!”

“Uh... what?” Tuffnut gave him a confused look.

“Willow bark is used as a natural medicine in places where manufactured medicines are... inaccessible.” Unaffordable, he meant, and they all knew it. “It can be made into tea, which helps mimic the effects of actual medicines and reduces sickness, fevers, and can help some injuries!”

“That’s great!” Hiccup exclaimed.

“Isn’t it just! Plus, we’ll have no trouble boiling water, since Toothless can light us a fire!” Fishlegs finished with a triumphant look in his eyes. “You can shoot fire... right?”

Toothless opened his mouth and sent a quick shot into the ground, making the others jump.

“Some warning would’ve been nice, T.” Tuffnut glared at him, the smouldering patch of dried earth, then back at him. Toothless rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, look what you did to these poor water lilies!” Ruffnut added, sadly touching the flowers’ scorched petals.

Hiccup’s eyebrows shot up, and his face - almost comically slowly - spread into a wide grin.

“Waitwaitwait, water lilies... that means there has to be water nearby!” Hiccup exclaimed happily. “Ruffnut, you’re a genius!”

She seemed genuinely touched. “First time I’ve ever heard that.”

“C’mon!” Hiccup led the others through the undergrowth, taking care to follow the trail of soft, damp mud. He carefully pushed plants aside to forge a path through the forest. It grew thicker, but the others followed closely behind him.

The only concern was Toothless, who stomped ungracefully through the shrubs and fallen branches, making everyone aware they were there. Hiccup had half a mind to tell him to be quiet, but he wasn’t sure if he understood common English, and he couldn’t help being his size.

Yet he had wings- big and strong enough to carry a body his size. So why can’t you fly? Hiccup thought about it as the group finally reached a stream with enough water to fill their water skins and bottles.

Toothless lapped the water up thirstily while the others waited for the iodine tablets to finish purifying their water. They were thirsty from all their running, and the wait seemed to get slower with every second. When all four were sure the thirty minute time recommended was up, they uncapped their bottles and skins, gulping greedily.

“Oh man...” Tuffnut sighed, wiping the water dripping from his chin. “I needed that.”

They barely had time to murmur their agreements when a scream - close by - pierced the air.

They all exchanged a frantic look, and shot back into the forest. The blur of trees passed them by in a senseless haze of green and brown, shadowed by the grey sky.

Fishlegs stopped suddenly, skidding on the dry leaves, and pointed to a clearing of trees. “This way!”

They emerged from the treeline just in time to see Cassie on the ground, the prongs of a trident in the back of her head. Fei, the District Four boy, was crouched over Cassie’s lifeless body, panting heavily. Blood covered his hands.

The canon went off, confirming what they all knew deep down. Fei pulled the trident out of her head, took one look at them - Toothless growling, plasma boiling in his throat; the four tributes all bigger than him and holding weapons - and backed off, scrambling into the trees.

The second he was gone, Fishlegs knelt at Cassie’s side, screaming for her to wake up until his voice went hoarse, but it was futile. They all knew she was dead. An injury like that would’ve been impossible to treat, even by the Capitol’s medical care.

Eventually, Fishlegs stopped speaking, and quietly laid her head in his lap.

Hiccup took a gentle step towards him. “Fishlegs, I’m so-”

“She was smart. The smartest in her year,” Fishlegs said quietly. “She went to my school; two years below me - eighth grade. She wanted to be a doctor so she could help as many people as she could. I learned the willow bark trick from her family. Her mother even learned healing from mine...” His voice broke off into more heaving tears.

While he grieved, Hiccup cut her meagre pack of supplies from her body with Ruffnut’s spearhead. Seconds later, the hovercraft claw swooped down and lifted her tiny body into the sky.

Fishlegs squinted at it as it left, until it was an imperceptible dot in the sky. “The Capitol won’t care,” he said bitterly. “She’s just another tribute to them. I bet half of them won’t even remember her name.”

He straightened up his body, tilted his head to the sky, and hollered “her name is Cassie!”

Then, in a voice too quiet to be noticed on cameras, he added “and her blood is on your hands.”

Toothless stood guard by the entrance to the clearing. Ruff picked up her spear, and jammed it onto a broken branch. Tuff began gathering rocks to throw. Hiccup sat nearby, and let him stay beside her for a little while longer. He deserved to grieve.


They spent the next few hours foraging in silence. Fishlegs was still icily quiet, a gentle question being all that stood between him and another wave of heart-wrenching grief.

To occupy his mind from everything, Hiccup set the twins onto building a fire and went gathering for berries. He let his mind drift towards Toothless, and why he couldn’t seem to fly. The dragons in the arena were scarce, but he was sure he’d seen others flying.

In his mind, he tried to conjure a full image of him: deeply black scales, vivid green eyes, huge wings, the tail-

His tail! Hiccup remembered now - Toothless’s tail had half a fin missing! And if that meant he couldn’t fly...

Hiccup had to do something about that.

Half an hour later, he returned with the spoils: wild nettles, dandelions, pine bark, pine needles, and - most excitingly - some wild raspberries.

The twins pounced on them immediately while Hiccup begins to boil the nettles into a soup.

Ruff and Tuff began to place the raspberries on their fingers, flexing them and making silly faces.

“Hey, Fish. Check out my mushroom fingers,” Tuffnut said.

“Nice.” Fishlegs gave a weak smile.

“Now you try,” he insisted. “You eat them off one by one using your teeth. The aim is to try not to crush it before you eat them.” To demonstrate, Tuffnut bit on his right index finger, and picked up a raspberry, accidentally breaking the skin. Pink juices dribbled down his chin.

“See?” Ruffnut said, trying and failing at the task. “Harder than it looks, right?”

Fishlegs placed one on his finger, and tried it. To the twin’s delight, he managed to eat it whole. They clapped as loudly as they dared while Fishlegs carried on.

“Hiccup, you try!” Tuffnut elbowed him.

“Okay, okay.” He rolled his eyes, grinning, and did as Tuffnut asked.

Ruffnut ended up with the most, followed by Hiccup, then Fishlegs, then Tuffnut - though Hiccup had a suspicion Tuff was going easy on Fishlegs. Whatever had actually happened, the group left in high spirits to explore.

“So.” Hiccup scratched Toothless’s chin as he walked. “What are we thinking our next move should be?”

Ruff and Tuff exchanged a look. “Next move?” Ruffnut raised an eyebrow. “Do we really need one?”

“I mean... there’s nothing wrong with doing what we’re doing - exploring, getting food,” Fishlegs said. “It’s safe.”

“For now, while the-” he stopped, relieved he caught himself before he almost got his whole team killed by a gamemaker-made ‘accident’. “While there’s still tributes out there,” he said. “We can’t afford to take any chances. I was thinking-”

“We can’t afford to take chances on rushing into a fight either!”

“Fishlegs, we need to start thinking about the other tributes.”

“Are you really telling me you want to hunt people down?” Fishlegs gave him a scathing look. “I thought you were different, Hiccup.”

No! I mean, we need to make an alliance. I was thinking we could look for Astrid, and-”

Ruffnut, Tuffnut and Fishlegs all opened their mouths, as if to say something, and then didn’t.

“What?” Hiccup snapped. “Go on, then, out with it.”

“Well...” Ruffnut began, hesitant. “I don’t think Astrid would be all that willing to make an alliance with us. I mean, she’s, like, mean.”

“No she’s- look, you saw what happened in the interview,” he lowered his voice, “if she was really that untrustworthy, she would’ve hunted me down and killed me by now.”

“And how do we know she’s not doing that right now, Hiccup?” Ruffnut’s voice struck into the air like a gunshot. “How do we know she’s not hiding in the trees above her heads?”

She jerked her thumb up to the bushes, and Tuffnut followed her line of direction. His mouth fell open.

“Uh... guys?”

“I know she’s not, because I saw her going off with Heather and Dagur, and those two would have slit our necks by now,” said Hiccup.

“Guys?” Tuffnut pointed a finger into the bushes.

“Well, maybe they’re smarter than that. Maybe you’re-” Ruffnut jabbed a finger into Hiccup’s chest “-overestimating them.”


Fishlegs - who had been awkwardly watching the argument go down - followed Tuffnut’s gaze, and his mouth fell open in horror. For a moment, he froze. Then, he let out the tiniest, highest squeak of terror imaginable, and clapped his hand to his mouth.

“Oh, believe me, I know exactly what they are capable of,” Hiccup snapped, ignoring the other two entirely. “I know, because they killed my district partner!”

For a moment, there was only fury pulsing in the air between them all, hanging like a noose. Hiccup’s shoulders heaved, the impact of the statement sending him reeling like a punch to the chest.

Then, Fishlegs and Tuffnut screamed “GUYS!” and Hiccup and Ruffnut finally saw what they had been pointing to.

Two grass-green heads, protruding from slender, reptilian necks, stared back with bright, lemon yellow eyes. It was impossible to look away.

The four stared, captivated. Their feet seemed rooted to the spot. The creature’s necks slowly moved out of the bushes with eerie synchrony, inching closer and closer...

A plasma blast shocked all four out of their trance, and they scrambled towards Toothless. Hiccup drew his shield, hoping it would provide some protection from the incoming attack. Oh, if only he’d been listening to Tuffnut...

The creature let out a waft of green gas from one of its heads, and the other sent out a few sparks that set it alight. Tuffnut bolted from under Toothless’s wing, and yelled “cool!”

Hiccup froze. Oh mercy, Tuffnut was going to be eaten, and they would be forced to watch, and it would be bloody and awful, and-

The creature did not attack him. Instead, it sniffed him curiously, both heads snaking around his body.

“A dragon,” Hiccup whispered in his focused way.

“Tuffnut,” Ruffnut hissed, “don’t move.”

“Why? They’re not gonna hurt me,” he said.

“If it’s in the games, it’s a fairly safe bet it’s dangerous!” Ruffnut whisper-shouted. “I think I saw one of those things blow up a tree yesterday.”

“They’re dragons,” Hiccup said. “And yes, they can blow up trees and make fire. Lots of it.”

The three watched, paralysed with fear, as the dragon continued sniffing Tuffnut. It wasn’t threatening; it seemed more like it was testing something.

Finally, the two heads pulled away, and gently nudged him back to Toothless.

“Tuff, whatever they want you to do, you do it, okay?” said Hiccup. “That’s a Zippleback. One head breathes flammable gas, the other ignites it.”

Fishlegs and Ruffnut both turned to stare at him. “You know this how?” said Ruffnut.

“Uh, I’ll explain later,” he said.

Thankfully for him, a second dragon burst from the bushes, shorter and rounder, and a spectrum of browns from cream to beaver-pelt.

“Gronckle. Be careful. That thing can literally crush you.”

“Thanks, Hiccup, I feel loads better,” grumbled Fishlegs.

Then, two things happened at once:

Toothless’s ears flicked, his head whipped around, and he scampered off into the trees.

The other three barely had any time to process their imminent lack of protection when the Zippleback and the Gronckle began to walk towards them.

Fishlegs and Ruffnut both broke away from Hiccup: Ruffnut towards her twin, and Fishlegs to the Gronckle.

Hiccup watched, cautious, as the dragons inspected his allies, but didn’t seem to fight. He didn’t dare let his muscles unclench yet. It was too risky to let his guard down until he was sure he and his group were safe.

Speaking of, Toothless hadn’t returned in a while since he left into the bushes behind him. A nasty feeling grew in Hiccup’s chest. If something was wrong-

An animalistic shriek pierced the air.

Toothless!” Hiccup cried, whipping his head around, trying to find the source of the noise. It had to be coming from him; who else would it be? He strained his ears but... nothing.

Maybe he was just hearing things, and the insanity of the games was making him hallucinate. He’d heard of people that happened to on older games.

There it was again! The shrieking sound, whipping through the trees. Hiccup recognised it from somewhere… he'd heard it before, he was sure. Just where was-

“Toothless!” Hiccup cried once again, relieved at the sight of the familiar, black creature bounding through the trees.

Where another dragon followed him.

Hiccup's guard kicked into high alert, watching the creature for any signs of danger, but none came. Toothless was playful - as much as a dragon could be - with it, fluttering his wings and crooning at each other.

He could be attacked any minute. With the first two dragons and his allies still cautiously observing each other, and Toothless and the other dragon still dancing around each other, anything could happen to him.

Strangely, he didn't mind. Actually, he realised with a start, this was the safest - the most comfortable - he'd felt in ages. A tribute could jump from the bushes any minute and he wouldn’t drop to his knees and beg for mercy. Toothless made him feel brave. Toothless made him feel like he had a fighting chance in the games he was so sure he would die in.

“So,” he said. “Are we keepin’ em?”

The Gronckle nuzzled Fishlegs’s arm. “I guess it’s a yes from me.”

Hiccup turned to look at Ruffnut and Tuffnut, who were clambering onto the Zippleback’s necks. “What? This is efficient,” Ruffnut said. “These guys like being around us, we get their protection.”

“Plus, I think these guys like us,” Tuffnut added.

Toothless looked back at Hiccup from where he was playing with Stormfly, and co*cked his head. His eyes spoke yes! Let’s keep them!

Hiccup nodded. “Okay. They can stick around.”


In the sky that night, Cassie’s face - young, bright, hopeful - shone in the sky. Hiccup could almost feel Fishlegs tense. He waited for him to say something, but didn't. She was his district partner, his one piece of home he had left in the arena. What do you say to such a loss?

An ‘I’m so sorry’ was on the edge of his lips when Fishlegs said, clipped and angry, “In Three, there was an outbreak of the flu. She lost her dad. I lost mine. At the shared funeral, she told me she wanted to invent a cure when she was older.” The bitterness on the last word was not missed by Hiccup and the twins.

“I’m so sorry, Fishlegs,” Hiccup said. And it really is true, because he can’t help but feel as if there was something he could’ve done.

“Wonder if it hurt to get impaled,” Tuffnut said without a trace of humour.

Fishlegs shrugged. “I’ll take first watch.”

“Ok then,” Hiccup said, and burrowed deep into his sleeping bag so the cameras couldn’t see the sorrow on his face.

Six dead. Six closer to his survival. It didn’t feel like a victory- how could it?

What Will You Sacrifice? - Chapter 12 - Double_Trouble_36 (2024)
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