The group traveled quickly for the first three days, taking very little time for breaks before nightfall. Hiccup wanted to time it perfectly, getting to Berk after sunrise, so he could have some time to talk to his people and explain as much of the situation as he could before leaving it to Merida, Astrid, and his mother. Hiccup and Toothless switched riders only a few times, Hiccup usually ending up with Merida and Toothless with the triplets. This gave Hiccup time to instruct Merida on what she would need to do if he couldn’t return to human form before he stopped talking. They knew they were getting close on their fifth day out as the weather grew snowy, and the rivers were icy, if not completely frozen.
“Alright, we have maybe another three days before reaching Berk. We’ll keep traveling as we have before for the next two days. On the third day, Toothless will go ahead with Merida to see how far out we are from Berk, and we’ll adjust our speed to get there on the fourth or fifth day after sunrise. Any questions?”
“Yeah, you thought much about how you’re going to explain why you accepted the spell from the witch?”
Hiccup winced, “No, not really besides saying that I didn’t know what it would do.”
Merida groaned, “Hiccup, you’re going to have to tell them the truth. Maybe your clan can help you with being more like your dad while being you. Besides, that’s part of undoing the spell, remember? To become a human requires a selfless act, be yourself and make the pact.”
“Yeah, I know, I really am trying, you know? There’s only so much a bear can do.”
“But there’s still a lot that Hiccup can say, right?”
Hiccup started to smile, “Yeah, there is. It’s just, for the longest time I didn’t want to be my dad, and now that he’s gone, I find myself wishing I could be more like him.”
Merida laughed, “About that, you probably have more similarities with him than you realize. I found that out when my mom was a bear, I have more in common with her than I realized, or wanted to believe. And you know, that’s because she was my mom and I spent a lot of time with her, she taught me everything I know, well, almost everything. There’s a lot my dad taught me too, but that’s mainly with swords and bows than literature and sewing.” The two chuckled, then glanced at Toothless and the triplets. Toothless had draped his wing around the sleeping boys, keeping them warm, while paying attention to Merida’s and Hiccup’s conversation.
Hiccup turned back to Merida, “Well I guess you would know, you got your mom back after almost losing her.”
“Yeah, I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to lose your dad. I might have gotten close when I nearly lost my mom, but like you said, I did get her back, so I can’t be absolutely sure. But I do know this, because I did get my mom back, I have found that I am capable of doing many of the same things she has been doing for a long time. Though, I don’t think that the two of us together could keep the peace for very long when there are Vikings around.”
“I don’t blame them, there are Viking clans who in fact raid a lot, and not just Celts, but other Vikings as well, and even Romans. There are those, and then there’s those who are like us on Berk and want to have some peace, and some good friends to get drunk with,” Hiccup chuckled.
Merida chuckled, “Yes, there is that too. Guess Scots and Vikings are more similar than we thought. Just like you and I are more like our parents than we thought.”
Hiccup sighed, “Yeah, guess that’s true too. We should get some sleep, we have another long day tomorrow.”
“Right, well, goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” Hiccup rolled over and fell asleep, Toothless falling asleep not too long afterwards, but Merida stayed up a bit, watching the others sleep, and one in particular, before she too fell asleep.
They continued on, Hiccup bounding over frozen paths while Toothless took to the snowy skies, both eager to return home and to show their new friends what life was like on Berk and pair them with their own dragons. Finally the day came for Merida to ride Toothless to figure out how long until they reached Berk. They came back with a surprise, they were only a few hours out.
“Alright, we’ll only go for a few more hours today, leave the rest for tomorrow. We’ll get up late too, just to be on the safe side.” The triplets cheered while Merida chuckled, they weren’t quite used to the extremes of traveling, and once they each had a dragon, there would be no need for them to worry about that. Everything happened as Hiccup hoped it would, they left for the last hours of their journey after sunrise, Merida letting her brothers ride Toothless for the final lap while she rode on Hiccup’s back. They arrived a couple of hours before lunch, surprising everyone with the strange assortment of characters entering their village, even more so when they realized Hiccup wasn’t among the group even though Toothless was. They didn’t try to harm the new-comers once Toothless let them know he knew them, but they did send them to the main hall, calling for Valka and Astrid. When the two women approached the group to find out what was going on, the biggest surprise of all came. Hiccup gave Merida a nudge and she nodded, they had practiced this before entering Berk, but she was still nervous about speaking to Hiccup’s mother, and especially his girlfriend.
“Um, hello, Lady Valka, Astrid, I am Merida of the DunBroch clan, and these are my brothers, Hamish, Hubert, and Harris. We’ve come with a problem and a proposition . . .”
Valka held up her hand, “Before you continue, I see my son’s dragon, but not my son. Where is he?”
“Ah, yes, that would be the problem.”
“What? Is your clan holding Hiccup prisoner?” exclaimed Astrid.
“No . . .”
“Then what is the problem? Is he sick?”
“Uh . . . sort of.” She glanced at Hiccup, he nodded, it was time to let them know. “Uh, we have a witch who’s quite good at turning people into bears . . .”
Valka gasped as she glanced at the bear, “Hiccup?”
“Hi Mom, Astrid, yeah, it’s me.” They stared at the bear for several minutes before Valka glanced between Hiccup and Merida.
“Is there a way to reverse this?”
“Yes, but I don’t have much time. I’ve already taken care of most of it, thankfully, there’s just one last thing I need to do before I can return to being human.”
“And what’s that?”
“I have to perform a selfless act.”
Merida sighed, “The witch said that this was the only way to change him back. To become a human requires a selfless act, be yourself and make the pact. Hiccup has been himself and has made a pact between Berk and us Scots, my brothers and I are just a part of it as well as needing to make sure Hiccup is changed back.”
“Oh, well that was nice of you,” Astrid eyed Merida.
“There’s one other thing.” Everyone glanced at Hiccup. “Tomorrow morning, I won’t be able to speak again, so everything that I need to say has to be said today.”
“Why will you stop talking?”
“The witch said that the sunrise after my arrival at Berk I will stop talking, and two sunrises after that, I will be a bear forever.”
“Oh Hiccup, why . . . how did this happen?”
“I . . . uh,” he began, but before he finished he glanced at Merida. She gave him a nod, and gave him a ‘go-on’ signal with her hands. “I-I wished I could have been more like Dad,” he finally whispered.
“Oh Hiccup, why did you even need to make such a wish?”
“Well, I, uh, wasn’t getting along too well in getting the pact to happen. But with Merida’s and her mom’s help, I was able to do it. I mean, I guess even the witch helped me by changing me into a bear because they all seemed more willing to listen once they understood why I got changed.”
“They didn’t attack you?”
“No, this isn’t the first time this has happened,” explained Merida. Valka and Astrid glanced at her. “That’s the reason why I came, I know how this all works because my mom got changed into a bear and I had to change her back.”
“Ah, so you help my son return to his natural form in exchange for dragon lessons?”
“Kind of, but that was already part of the pact, Merida and her brothers were the only ones ready and willing to come, it would seem. The others weren’t quite ready to trust a Viking, even though they did make a pact with me.”
“Ah, so, you would want them to begin dragon lessons so you could oversee them?” Hiccup nodded.
Astrid sighed, “Alright, let’s go get started on some dragon training.” The triplets whooped and followed her eagerly out the door. Valka stayed back with Merida, Hiccup and Toothless.
“So, your clan was the only one willing to listen to my son?”
“Pretty much, we’ve been undergoing some changes in our traditions since my mom’s transformation, the others aren’t quite as up-to-date as we are, but they’ll catch up. Hiccup really only needed my parents to agree to the pact, we’re basically the head clan.”
“I see.” No more was said as they set about training the Scots in dragon lore. Word spreads fast in Berk, and before dinner, everyone knew about Hiccup’s transformation. Snotlout was teasing him about it, the twins fought over which was better, Hiccup being a human or a bear, Fishlegs only said he would be willing to help Hiccup in any way and took up the task of teaching the triplets more about the dragons, finding them a willing audience, and Astrid didn’t like Hiccup’s change one bit. Hiccup found her distance hurting more than anything else, but when Astrid wasn’t there, Merida was, and Hiccup began to realize just how much he had come to depend on her. As sunrise quickly approached, Hiccup began to wonder, with worry and dread, would his selfless act be about Merida?