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How to Train Your Dragon: How to Betray a Dragon's Hero
By Cressida Cowell, David Tennant
Hachette AudioCopyright © 2014 Cressida Cowell David Tennant
All rights reserved.
YOUR MOTHER SAID NOT TO LEAVE THE HIDEOUT
It was a chilly and foggy night in the Murderous Mountains.
A good night for treachery.
Humans should not have been out in the forests of the Murderous Mountains in those times of war. If the dragons of the dragon rebellion caught even one hint that there were humans moving in the burned trees of those misty mountain passes, they would hunt them down and kill them.
But somewhere deep in that forest, far away from any aid, a terrified human voice was shrieking, "Help! Help! Help!" and a little party of brave but foolish humans and dragons had set out to offer their assistance.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third was sitting on the back of a Deadly Shadow dragon, flying so low over the treetops that every now and then the slow downward beats of the dragon's wings brushed the scorched topmost twigs of the trees.
Deadly Shadow dragons are chameleons, and so this beautiful three-headed dragon was exactly the color of the midnight sky, complete with stars slowly shifting across its shining sides.
Hiccup's knees were trembling with the effort to keep a grip on the saddle.
Hiccup was a very ordinary-looking boy for one sought after by so many people. A ragged little string bean of a teenager, his Fire-Suit torn to ribbons, his face bruised and scratched, with the wild hair and scared eyes of one who had been hunted by too many for too long. War and exile had turned him into a scarecrow of a boy.
His ears were ringing from the piercing coldness of the biting wind, and he was peering over the Deadly Shadow's necks as it flew, his heart beating horribly quick at the blackened wasteland down below. He was trying to work out where that piteously shrieking voice was coming from.
"Help! Help! Help!" screamed the voice, and now they could see the little flaring light of a campfire, burning deep in the woods, flickering on and off like a firefly, or the flickering of your curiosity.
No wonder Hiccup was nervous, for this was the scorched, fire-ravaged territory of the dragon Furious and the dragon rebellion, and the dragon Furious was hunting more than anything for Hiccup, and Hiccup alone. The dragon Furious had made a solemn pledge to turn this world to ashes looking for him. He had sworn that no rock, no island, no cave nor cliff would be a safe hiding place for the boy. The results of the dragon Furious's crazed lunatic hunt lay in the melted, mutilated landscape around them, the ragged corpses of the trees, the burned remains of the smashed-up cliffs.
"Oh for Thor's sake," whispered Hiccup's best friend, Fishlegs, who was sitting behind him on the Deadly Shadow.
Fishlegs was, if anything, even skinnier and more ragged than Hiccup. His smashed glasses were perched perilously on the end of his nose. "We could be torn to pieces by the dragon rebellion! Your mother said ON NO ACCOUNT TO LEAVE THE HIDEOUT," protested Fishlegs. "We just need to stay in hiding for two more days, until Doomsday Eve, when we meet the rest of the Dragonmarkers at the Singing Sands of the Ferryman's Gift. That's ALL we need to do. Your mother said she would take care of everything else ..."
"But what if it were one of us all alone out there in that forest?" Hiccup argued.
"You're right," said Fishlegs, getting a good trembling grip on his sword. "I know you're right ... It's just that it's so scary ..."
Hiccup and his two human friends were as white as grubs, having not seen daylight for a month. This was the first time they had been outside in all that time. Their dragons had taken turns to venture out and collect food and firewood. Now the Ten Companions of the Dragonmark had crept out of the safety of their hideout at the sound of that distant, terrified human voice.
As they swooped nearer to the little light, the desperate sound of the human voice came closer and closer, and it was impossible not to respond to the fear in that voice. What could be happening to that human to make him or her scream like that?
"Help! Help! Help!"
A human calling out to another human cannot be ignored.
Hiccup swallowed, looking at the trees below him. This once had been a living, breathing forest. Now it was as still as death, scorched and burned and wasted by the intensity of the dragon Furious's anger.
The third human on the Deadly Shadow's back was a small, fierce little Bog- Burglar called Camicazi. Her hair looked as if a family of over-excitable squirrels had been having an all-night party in the back of it.
"Oh come on, Fishlegs," whispered Camicazi, whistling happily. "You know we have to do this. Besides, I feel like a bit of exercise. We've been cooped up in that hideout for way too long."
Frankly, at this point, Camicazi had grown so fed up that if Hiccup had suggested hang gliding off the toe-talons of the dragon Furious she'd have been up for it.
"A bit of exercise?" blustered Fishlegs. "A bit of exercise? This is not some kind of Viking version of Girls Keep Fit!"
Three little hunting dragons and one riding dragon were flying just above the Deadly Shadow. Two of the hunting dragons belonged to Hiccup: a very old one, the Wodensfang, with wings all tattered and torn; and a very young one, Toothless, the smallest, naughtiest hunting dragon in the Archipelago. The third hunting dragon was a golden chameleon Mood Dragon called Stormfly, and she belonged to Camicazi.
The riding dragon, the Windwalker, was a long-limbed, gentle, raggedy creature. He wagged his flag of a tail, hopefully waiting for everyone else to decide what to do.
"L-l-let's go home ..." wept Toothless, in Dragonese, the language that dragons speak to one another. Only Hiccup could understand him, for Hiccup was a dragon whisperer.
Toothless's huge green eyes were bulging wide in terror. He didn't really care about stranger-humans who didn't belong to him. He just wanted to go home, but he didn't want to admit it in front of Stormfly. Toothless was rather in love with Stormfly, so he tended to show off in her company.
"Is too ch-ch-chilly to b-b-be outside ..." wept Toothless.
Toothless had a stammer, but this was even more pronounced because he was shivering so hard.
"Well, I told you to wear your coat, Toothless, didn't I?" Hiccup countered. "I told you and told you! But you said, oh no, you'd be too hot in your coat ..."
"That c-c-coat is s-s-sissy ..." Toothless objected. "And actually T-t- toothless n-n-not cold after all ... T-t-toothless very w-w-warm ... but maybe a little t-t-too warm ... Toothless needs to go back to the hideout so he can c-c- cool down ..."
The too-warm Toothless was in fact so cold he had turned almost blue.
"Is not because T-t-toothless scared of the dragon rebellion dragons," huffed Toothless. "No, no, NO. Toothless can fight dragon rebellion dragons with one wing tied behind his back—yes, I can, Stormfly," he bragged. "Can't I, Wodensfang? And Toothless once b-b-bit the dragon Furious SO HARD on the bottom that he cried ... But Toothless a little bit hot and he's got iffy wings ... LOOK ..."
Toothless held out his wing and made the end of it go all floppy.
"Flippy-floppy, flippy-floppy ..." cooed Toothless, in a tone of tender self- consolation.
"Yes, I've got a kind of tickly feeling in the back of my throat myself," hissed Stormfly, batting her naughty eyes. Stormfly spoke in Norse, for she was one of the very rare dragons who could speak the human tongue. "Maybe we should go back and have a little lie-down ... Maybe I should go back and get Toothless's coat ... I think you look quite cute in your coat, Toothless."
"Ooh, do you?" said Toothless, rethinking the coat.
"Nonsense, you'll feel all the better for some nice night air," scolded Camicazi. "It's probably indigestion in your case, Stormfly. You've got to stop swallowing those squirrels whole."
"INDIGESTION?" huffed Stormfly, outraged. Her beautiful serpentine body was currently purple (the color she turned when she lied), but as she grew angry, a haze of black mist fanned outward from her heart, like a cloud of ink slowly spreading through water. "INDIGESTION? I am an artist, a free spirit ... I go where the wind takes me ... Free spirits do not get indigestion ..."
"I think I should warn you that this might be a trap, set for you by Alvin and his followers, the Alvinsmen," the Wodensfang warned Hiccup in a wheezy whisper.
The Wodensfang was a wrinkled brown leaf of a dragon who looked a little like a decrepit, droopy little dachshund that had shriveled like a raisin. His ears had gone purple and were shivering, which was what always happened when DANGER was near.
"Take the advice of my thousand years, Hiccup," said the Wodensfang. "That light is behaving very strangely if it is a campfire. I've never seen a campfire that moves ... not in a thousand years, I haven't."
The Wodensfang was right.
The campfire was moving, slowly, slowly, down the length of the valley. Sometimes it was extinguished entirely by the heavy, shifting fog, or snuffed out by the denseness of the thickets of trees. But then it would flicker into life again, slowly and steadily, just a little bit farther down.
A campfire that moved?
Surely that was impossible!
The human voice had stopped shouting now. Somehow that was even more petrifying. Had its owner been snuffed out and swallowed by whatever terrors might lurk in this still, scarred landscape?
They were catching up with the light; it was bigger and brighter and stronger, and Hiccup could catch that distinctive smell of campfire in his nostrils.
They were now following the river that wound its way like a sinister sleeping snake through the center of the gorge.
The river turned a corner. And there it was ...
A campfire, burning on an island of ice that was moving swiftly in the current in the middle of the river.
Lying on his front on the island of ice was a human, chained to a sleeping riding dragon, a Hurricane, with scars and whip marks all along its side.
Hiccup could see immediately why this human had been screaming. Running along the riverbanks, flitting through the trees, were the dark shapes of a gigantic pack of Wolf-fangs. The human must have been camping on some frozen lake upriver, and the ice had broken up in the night and carried him on his little raft downstream, where his scent was picked up by Wolf-fangs. Wolf-fangs were neutral dragons, thank Thor, not part of the rebellion. They were flightless, but persistent killers nonetheless.
Some of them were already in the water, silently trying to climb on the raft, evil tongues hanging out, and the human was desperately knocking them back with his sword.
Well, that explained why the human had been screaming.
But why had he stopped screaming?
And why were those Wolf-fangs, scrabbling to get on board that ice raft, pursuing their prey without howling, without making a sound? Oh for Thor's sake, oh for Thor's sake ...
The human had stopped screaming because there was something else camped out overnight along the riverbanks, a lot of something elses that were still sleeping there, and these something elses were much worse than the Wolf-fangs. With a sort of horror, Hiccup realized that what he thought had been fallen tree trunks lying just below the waterline in the rushes, in the shallows, weren't tree trunks at all.
They were Razorwings and Tongue-twisters, Brainpickers and Savagers, some of the scariest dragon species of the dragon rebellion.
And there weren't just a few of them, either. There were dragon rebellion dragons submerged all along the riverbanks as far as the eye could see.
All around, in the shallows, were the still, sleeping, panther-like shapes of the dragons cooling their furnace-like bodies in the ice-cold currents of the river. A sickly, sulfurous yellow-green mist curled its way up from their bodies as the heat of their scales met the chill of the water.
One huge Savager was gnawing at the ragged remains of a gigantic tree in his sleep, a tree torn violently and entirely out of the ground, its poor tender roots spilled out like a desecration. Another, a Brainpicker, was holding the pathetic remnants of a bloodied human coat that Hiccup sincerely hoped did not belong to a Dragonmarker.
Their dark, sinister shapes oozed with menace and fear.
Hiccup urged the Deadly Shadow downward, trying to catch up with the poor, terrified human on the ice raft moving swiftly down the river below them.
Three pairs of human eyes and seven pairs of dragon eyes squinted through the mist to look at the human laid out full-length on his stomach on the moving island of ice, bashing away at the noses of Wolf-fangs trying to climb on board his raft and drag him under.
It was a man. A young man.
A young man who had lost hope that anyone would rescue him now, and you could see from his defeated, terrified face that he thought he was about to die.
Hiccup caught his breath in shock as he recognized the human.
It was Snotlout.CHAPTER 2
"WE WERE JUST WONDERING WHOSE SIDE YOU ARE ON"
Hiccup was as shocked to see Snotlout there as if someone had hit him suddenly in the stomach. Snotlout was Hiccup's cousin, and he had been Hiccup's enemy ever since Hiccup was born.
When they last saw Snotlout on the battlefield back in the Amber Slavelands, Snotlout was trying to decide whether to be on their side or the side of Alvin and the witch. So which side had he chosen?
It appeared that Camicazi and Fishlegs thought they knew the answer to that question already.
"Let's get back to the hideout," whispered Camicazi in disgust.
Fishlegs sighed. "I'm afraid I agree."
"Hang on a second!" whispered Hiccup. "We can't just GO HOME and leave Snotlout here!"
Fishlegs looked at Hiccup with the hollow eyes of someone who has been on the run from the dragon rebellion for too long.
"Hiccup," said Fishlegs, "I don't think that Snotlout will have chosen to be on the Dragonmarker side. He is a lying, two-faced, treacherous villain who has betrayed you more times than I can remember, and he is almost certainly working for the Alvinsmen."
"People can change!" said Hiccup, his eyes lit up with enthusiasm. "You have to believe in people, and then maybe they can change!"
Fishlegs kept count on his fingers. "Let's see. He tried to kill you back in that swordfighting at sea lesson. He tried to kill you when we were on Hysteria that time. He threw the stone that revealed you had the Slavemark back in the School of Swordfighting ... He just keeps betraying you again and again."
"This time it's going to be different," whispered Hiccup optimistically. "This time I'm sure he's changed ... I'm convinced of it."
"If you try to save Snotlout," warned the Wodensfang, looking very nervous, "you will put us all in peril. By being kind to Snotlout, you may be endangering the lives of those who are loyal to you, who have never betrayed you. Sometimes kindness can be cruelty. These are the kinds of difficult decisions that a leader has to make."
Oh, thank you, Wodensfang. Very helpful. I may have mentioned this before, but: Most of us are lucky not to be Kings and Heroes because we do not have to make the choices that Kings and Heroes have to make.
~ STATISTICS ~
FEAR FACTOR: 9
These are very unpleasant dragons with wings so razor-sharp they can decapitate their victims in a heartbeat. Razorwings can turn themselves as flat as a spinning blade, and for good measure, they are also armed with darts that are mildly poisonous.
Excerpted from How to Train Your Dragon: How to Betray a Dragon's Hero by Cressida Cowell, David Tennant. Copyright © 2014 Cressida Cowell David Tennant. Excerpted by permission of Hachette Audio.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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