"No," said Hiccup.
"Maybe ickle Hiccup is going to start cwying," crowed Snotlout.
"USE-LESS, USE-LESS, USE-LESS," chanted the boys.
[Image: A pirate and a dragon.]
Toothless emerged from beneath Wartihog's bench. He looked left and right for any sign of Seaslug. And there, only inches away, was Dogsbreath's gigantic quivering bottom. It was too tempting. Toothless unlocked his jaws as wide as they would go.
As his name suggests, Toothless was entirely fang free. But his hard little gums could slice through the shell of an oyster and crush the claws of a crab....
He leapt forward and BIT that wobbling rear end as hard as he could.
Now Dogsbreath was really,
"Uh-oh," said Hiccup, suddenly realizing he was in Big Trouble. "Dogsbreath, your sword has lost its ..."
But Dogsbreath wasn't listening. He gave a roar of maddened fury, and made a great slashing swipe at Hiccup's head. Hiccup ducked and the wickedly sharp
blade buried itself in the mast of the boat, slicing the top off one of the horns on Hiccup's helmet in the process.
"STOP!" cried Hiccup from behind the mast, as Dogsbreath tugged furiously at his sword to pull it free. "Your sword has lost its case, you're going to
But Dogsbreath was so angry he could not hear a thing. He gave a great heave with his mighty muscles and the sword jerked free so suddenly that the poor brute sat down heavily on his bottom, just on that tender spot where Toothless had taken a big chunk out of it.
"YOOOOOOOOOW!" yelled Dogsbreath.
"HA HA HA HA HA!" laughed the boys.
Dogsbreath staggered to his feet, as mad as a harpooned whale. He threw himself at Hiccup with great bellows of fury. Although Hiccup managed to avoid him again, this time he slipped over in the process. Dogsbreath pinned him down with
one giant hand, and he lifted his sword above his head with the other.
"DON'T DO IT!" shouted Hiccup desperately, but Dogsbreath's eyes were full of the joys of battle and he began to swing the blade down towards Hiccup's chest.
And that would have been the end of Hiccup if it hadn't been for the extraordinarily lucky
coincidence that at that very moment the ship lurched queasily upwards on the next giant wave, rolled for a second on the brim, and plunged hysterically downwards ... straight onto a large floating object that instantly holed the boat.
"Abandon ship!" shrieked Fireworm, and thirteen dragons rose into the air like gigantic bats. (Dragons are only loyal to their Masters up to a certain point.)
The ship split into two pieces on the spot, spilling the Vikings out into the sea. It then sank, with a sigh of relief, to the bottom of the ocean bed in about ten seconds flat.
One minute Hiccup was in the not-so-loving embrace of Dogsbreath the Duhbrain, the next he was doing the doggy paddle in water so breath-quenchingly, spine-numbingly, heart-stoppingly cold that it was difficult to think of questions like: "What in Woden's name do we do now?"
Something landed with a bump on the top of Hiccup's helmet. Toothless's eyes peered into his, upside down.
"N-n-nice fighting, Master," he said. "N-n-now, where's my l-l-lunch?"
"You may not have noticed," said Hiccup,
swallowing a big chunk of seawater as the weight of Toothless pushed him under the surface, "but I'm having a bit of a crisis here. Now flap off, will you, and see what's happened to Fishlegs. He can't swim."
Toothless returned a moment or so later looking anxious.
"F-f-fishlegs d-d-definitely needs you help, Master, B-b-big trouble. Follow me."
And he disappeared again.
Hiccup was just thinking, "Well, I don't know what in Valhalla he thinks I can do about it," when a miracle occurred.
It now floated up to within reaching distance of where Hiccup was treading water. There were a couple of iron handles on the sides, very handy for grabbing on to.
About twenty minutes earlier, some laughing members of the Meathead Tribe had thrown this box into the sea at Meathead Island, which was a couple of miles away. The winds had carried it a considerable distance in that short time.
And the chances of that particular box traveling all that way, and then in the middle of the whole wild and lonely ocean happening to hole the ship just in time to save Hiccup's life, must have been thousands, no, millions to one.
If you were a fanciful person, you might have said that it was almost as if that box was
But we are not fanciful people, and that would be ridiculous.
No sooner had Hiccup grabbed hold of one of the iron handles with a sigh of relief than a gigantic wave lifted him and the box way, way up, and then deposited them crashing down only a couple of feet away from where Toothless was trying to keep Fishlegs from going under for the third and what would have been final time.
The dragon had a firm grip on the back of Fishlegs's shirt, his wings were flapping furiously, and his little green face had turned bright red with the effort of trying to stop Fishlegs from sinking.
Fishlegs had got hold of a piece of broken oar that was keeping him up a bit, but he couldn't cling on much longer, and he would have drowned if it had not been for the sudden arrival of Hiccup and the mysterious box.
There was a lull in the sea for a couple of moments, in which Hiccup and Toothless managed to heave the exhausted Fishlegs onto the top of the box.
And there he clung, like an anxious Daddy Long-legs, terrified but alive.
Five indescribably cold minutes later, they were
blown by the violence of the wind onto the shores of the Long Beach. Amazingly, all thirteen of the boys and Gobber himself had survived the shipwreck.
Gobber didn't exactly give them a big, welcoming hug.
"Mmmm, good work I suppose," he said begrudgingly, sniffing a bit. "You took your time about it, though. Step lively, Fishlegs. We're horribly late for the next lesson."
As soon as Fishlegs had dragged himself off the box and collapsed panting onto the beach, Gobber stopped being irritated.
Because the box wasn't a box at all.
It was a coffin.
A huge, six-and-a-half-foot floating coffin, with the following words carved into the lid:
BEWARE! DO NOT OPEN THIS COFF!
"It's a coffin, sir."
"Yes, I can see that, thank you, Wartihog," snapped Gobber the Belch. "The question is, whose?"
The answer was written right underneath the words "Do Not Open This Coffin," in letters scratched out with some kind of dagger, and stained with something that might once have been blood.