Hunting the Hunter's Hunter
Alfny Aldertoes' team stood around casually in the Clubhouse on Dragon's Edge. They were one of a number of Dragon Rider teams that had taken up residence on the island, learning about dragons and patrolling the region, since the original Riders had returned to Berk. The outpost had grown quite a bit as well, and served as a continuous thorn in the side of the area's Dragon Hunters, nefarious merchants, and others that harbored ill will to Berk and dragon kind. Presently, other teams were out over the seas patrolling, while Alfny's team was at home.
Her blue Mudraker, Snorker, sat near Varinn's Monstrous Nightmare just outside, sunning themselves. Everyone else's dragons were off doing dragon-y things, but never too far off. Alfny watched, growing just a tad irritated, that Varinn was moving along in their game of knucklebones. His wider hands caught more pieces on the back, allowing him to scoop up more pieces on the floor. The most sheep's knuckbone pieces Alfny caught with the back of her hand was two. She tried to make up for it in quickness. It might work better if she practiced the maneuvers more though.
Varinn scattered the pieces on the floor between he and Alfny, Tossed one knucklebone in the air, and scooped up four pieces in one gone. Setting those aside, he tossed the single bone up in the air, then stared in shock as a Night Terror flew right into him and scattered the playing pieces all over the clubhouse floor. Another Night Terror crashed to the floor and flopped around like a fish. They screeched wildly, then got quiet, then cackled strangely.
Alfny helped push off the black-green female that had collided with Varinn, who muttered darkly under his breath. The dragon promptly fell as sleep, while the other dragon stumbled around as if drunk for a minute, then settled near the hearth and fell asleep as well.
Birgr the Brash, the team leader jumped up from shining his weapons. "By Odin, what's this commotion??" He grabbed up the half-gleaming sword defensively. Ragna, a quiet woman, placed a calming hand on Birgr. "These two are from the post on the far side of the island," she pointed out.
Alfny had some dragon first aid training, so checked on the two passed out Terrors. Breathing, hearts beating slowly, red eyes. Somehow, the dragons has been sedated with something, but for the moment seemed stable.
Birgr pointed at Alfny and Varinn. "Get over there and see what's the matter," he ordered, mostly because their dragons were at the Clubhouse already and ready to go. Snorker came over and sniffed the Terrors, then sneezed. Alfny nodded at Birgr and Ragna, then took off into the sky.
Though Outpost Island was large, it didn't take too much time to speed across the island, with Varinn's Nightmare a little ahead. They bee-lined to the Night Terror lookout roost overlooking the sea from whence the two drunk Terrors came from. Varinn pulled up abruptly, and Snorker had to break suddenly, then circle back to pull up alongside Varinn's Nightmare. Below them on a small strip of sand at the base of the mountain, lay the rest of the Terrors' group scattered about the sand. Alfny dove down to the ground and hopped off Snorker. She checked the nearest little dragon. Still breathing. Its tongue lolled out, given the impression of a drunken stupor. She dashed to the others. All alive.
"Look here," Varinn called her attention. There was a broken crate in the middle of them, and parts of fish scattered about. A couple of the sleeping dragons even had a fishtail or two hanging from their mouths. Snorker waddled over carefully and inhaled deeply at the fish. He turned his head away at first, then licked his lips and turned back to sniff more interestedly.
"You know better!" Alfny smacked Snorker on his rump. A firm smack on dragon hide amounted to a little tap. Snorker grumbled, slightly cowed and stepped away. Apparently he has smelled something off, but the overall aroma was very delicious. Alfny sniffed the fish herself. It was lightly fermented. Dragons loved fermented fish and other foods. Whoever put the drugged fish here knew what they were doing and wanted to get on the island undetected.
Suddenly Varinn's Nightmare became agitated, jumping about and lobbing fireballs as far out to sea as he could muster. Varinn grabbed the spy glass out of his saddlebag and peered out in the direction the Nightmare shot the fireballs. "Dragon Hunters! Two men in a small boat! Possibly a large ship on the horizon." He quickly slid the spy glass back into place and jumped onto his dragon. "Let's get them!"
"Wait a minute!" They are nearly escaped. They have done whatever it is they came to do. We need to find out what that is. Whatever it is might happen quickly. Besides, we need the team to take on a Hunter ship," Alfny reasoned. Snorker started sniffing around the beach. He was finding something.
"But those two in the faering could tell us what they did ..." Varinn argued back. They stared at each other for a single moment. He knew what her counterpoint was - they "might" tell, or keep quiet until it was too late. He sighed. Instead he said, "I'll fly back and tell the others. You try to figure out where they went," he gestured at Snorker who was muttering to himself and sniffing at the beginning of a small trail leading up the mountain.
Alfny nodded, and the two Riders set to their tasks quickly. She followed behind Snorker, scrutinizing the occasional track from the Dragon Hunters. There were two different sets of foot prints. The foot prints were deeper in the soil pointing up the mountain and the few pointed down the mountain not as much. So they were burdened with something and left it.
At times the scrubby path was too narrow for a dragon to pass, so Alfny mounted up and the Mudraker glided just above the vegetation, inhaling the air as he flew. The trail continued up and up, winding through the rocks and shrubs and trees, and eventually gave way to dark volcanic rock. It led all the way to the top of the quiescent volcano, and right to the edge of the magmatic mouth. Snorker hovered on the breeze of hot air rising from the sedately bubbling magma pool below. "What on earth could they want to do in Dragon's Edge volcano?" Alfny murmured. Snorker grunted, and spread his arms, as if shrugging 'I don't know'. Whatever the reason, there was some nefarious purpose for sure. Alfny urged Snorker down into the volcanic mouth with her knees. The Mudraker grunted in annoyance. He wasn't one of the hotter-natured dragons that enjoyed a good molten rock sauna, nor ate it or spit it out.
They flew around the circumference inside, though Snorker refused to go lower than three-quarters in, the heat too much for his tastes, even though his dragon-y hide could take it. Alfny, on the other hand, had sweat beading on her forehead. "Oh just land somewhere and let me down!" Alfny snapped at her dragon. "I think I see something down there," she said pointing at some odd-looking rocks closer to the bubbling magma. Snorker growled back at her, but obliged by landing on a thin ledge, half-clinging to the rough, dark wall. Alfny hopped of onto the precarious ledge, then on second thought tied herself to Snorker's saddle with a rope in the saddle bag. Of course simple rope would not withstand fire and magma, but it was better than nothing. She hopped and climbed even lower to yet another rock shelf, the one with the rocks of interest. Two rocky, roughly conical stones sat there, easily reaching her waist in height. The surfaces were deeply grooved, and their color was dull and nearly black, as if charred. There were faint jagged stripes on it. Toward the bottom, they settled flatly on the ledge, cracks crawling up the sides from where the stones met the rock of the ledge. Next to the two stones, were thick slabs that had a curve to them. Egg shells. Two lifeless eggs, and the remnants of a third. Except the shards were only charred on the edges, and otherwise had an orange color. There may have been dark brown striping in it, too. Alfny pocketed some of the smaller bits, then ran her hands over the pockets whole eggs, then stuck her cheek to them. Even with the tremendous volcanic heat, these eggs were cold and dead. Either they perished from possibly being tossed into the volcano, or they were already nonviable.
Snorker, still clinging to the rock wall, gave a short, sharp bark and peered downwards past Alfny. She looked along her dragon's gaze down to yet another ledge below her, close to the magma. At first glance, it appeared as though a blob of magma has oozed onto the ledge below. A firey orange with darker, cooler parts and brighter, hotter parts, just like the bubbling pool that spawned it. Yet it had a defined shape that materialized into a dragonet the size of a large dog. It stuck out a forepaw and dipped a tentative claw into the burning magma, as if testing the temperature.
"Careful!" Alfny blurted out. Certainly dragons can withstand molten rock, but perhaps not one so young and tender? The baby swiveled its head upwards toward her, regarding her with empty white eyes. "Come here, little one. It isn't time for a hot bath just yet," she murmured, trying to call the baby away from the the edge. She leaned over her own ledge as far as she could, reaching out to establish contact. Of course she had no idea if this baby of some species she wasn't familiar with would nip her hand like an Egg Biter or look for pats and comfort. And the expressionless face told her nothing. It's worth the risk, Alfny told herself.
The hatchling tilted its head to the side, without shifting its shoulders, like an inquisitive dog listening to the strange garbled utterances from its master. "That's a good ... boy, come here," Alfny beckoned. She didn't know what this hatchling was or why he was here alone, but she was determined to get him out. He decided to shuffle a little closer, dragging his orange tail like a lost puppy. He leaned forward, huffing hot breath on her hand. Suddenly, Alfny's lean over the ledge became a somersault face first toward the ledge and the magma, as her rope snapped. She bumped into the dragonet's shoulder, at least partially. Snorker was there instantly, roaring, and grabbing up Alfny and the baby in his forepaws just a few feet from the molten rock. Alfny was sure she smelled some singed hair. Snorker flew up and out of the volcano, and didn't stop until he reached the Clubhouse.
The Mudraker flew into the building, plopped his rider and the odd baby dragon down, before landing. It appeared that one of the other teams had returned - the all female one - and were lounging about the room, sipping on mutton stew that had been simmering on the hearth for hours. Apparently the rest of Alfny’s team had gone off after the Dragon Hunters. Alf has stood and and baby stood and righted her clothes, or in the lava-colored dragonet’s case, shook his body like a wet dog. Suddenly Snorker was on the baby, pushing him back down to the floor, holding him down with both front feet and growling into his face. The Mudraker roared while the baby squeaked shrilly back and tried to bite Snorker’s fingers,
”What are you doing?? He’s a BABY!!” Alfny cried, shocked at the behavior of her dragon, whom she had thought was a gentle, sociable creature. The women from the other team had jumped up, too, except their blonde leader, Annfrid.
Snorker blasted out his sonic breath, calculated to fall next to the hatchling’s head, and was powerful enough to rattle the wood boards across the room. Alfny snapped out of her shock and jumped toward the dragons.
”Let them be,” Annfrid said casually, sipping the rich broth from a deep mug. The other riders turned to look at her. The others were used to their leader’s blunt nature but not Alfny. She glared back, angry.
”Let them figure it out,” the blonde said, gesturing at the two dragons. Snorker stared at the dragonet. When the baby relaxed - submitted - Snorker let up. He then snorted and turned away, as if nothing had happened. The blue dragon went over to a corner, circled a few times, and settled down for a nap.
Everyone was quiet for a moment, then Alfny went over to the baby and patted him. He looked uninjured.
Annfrid sighed, appearing to be irritated no one else saw what she saw. “He’s just establishing dominance. It’s normal,” she shrugged.
Another rider from the other team, Pella, Alfny thought her name was, lighted up. “Oh, yes of course, but it does seem rather young to learn that lesson, don’t you think? Usually dominance displays don’t start happening until the dragon reaches about adolescence. Though he’s going to be a big species, it looks like,” she added.
Alfny smoothed back the dark red fins around the baby’s head. He had to nubs on his forehead. She touched them, but the baby ducked away. They seemed to be sensitive. The baby brought his head back up and started whining, keeping his mouth open. Of course he was hungry. Alfny got up and rummaged around some of the food crates and pulled out some smoked fish, then brought it back to the dragonet. “So what species do you think it is?” Alfny asked as she laid out the small fish in front of the baby.
Pella was already thumbing through her rather thick Dragon Journal to find out, muttering to herself.
The baby tilted his head again, eying the fish cautiously. He looked up at her then tentatively sucked the fish into his mouth and chewed reluctantly, then swallowed. He stuck his tongue out and shook his head, as if trying to rid himself of a bad taste. “Huh, well he doesn’t like that,” Alfny muttered. “Perhaps he doesn’t like smoke flavoring?”
Snorker who had been quietly resting in the corner, grunted and stepped over to the hearth, pushing aside one of the girls, and nudging the hot pot of mutton stew and the bowls around. “You are acting so strange,” Alfny admitted under her breath, but she thought she got the hint this time. She patted Snorker, then ladled out some stew into a bowl and presented that to the dragonet. This time the baby sniffed the aroma and dove in, slurping it down greedily. The stew had all manner of vegetables, greens, and roots tossed into the pot, but more importantly hunks of mutton, cracked sheep bones, letting the marrow cook out and mixed in with a hearty portion of fat. “Well I guess you prefer land animals to fish, huh?” Alfny murmured.
After another two bowls, the baby burped and was finally finished. Snorker had retired back to the corner to rest. The baby looked around the Clubhouse with its expressionless gaze, but anyone could tell he was now very sleepy. His head turned toward Snorker, and he waffled over and propped himself up against the blue dragon. Snorker turned his head away to ignore him, but after a minute or two as the dragonet settled, his wing casually came down around the babe.
Alfny just blinked at the strange behavior. Pella, however, was furiously jotting down notes. Alfny walked over to her and looked over her shoulder into her Book of Dragons. Every Dragon Rider had to learn and copy the Book of Dragons, giving each and every one a reference tome of dragons in their own hand. Some peoples’ was much more detailed than others’. “Have you figured out what he is?”
Pella stopped writing, “No. No I haven’t,” she said, a little defeated.
”What about in Bork’s papers?” Alfny suggested. The original Papers were not here, but a meticulously crafted and organized copy stayed at Dragon’s Edge. The tome was huge. Alfny and Pella pulled out the book - or books, rather - and laid them out on another table away from the fire. The women sat down and started slowly looking through the pages.
For several hours the women poured over the information. Alfny was slightly annoyed that Pella was taking time to jot down any tidbit on any species that she came across in her own Journal. This was going to take a long time. Other Riders came and went through the Clubhouse. The rest of Alfny's team returned, with little other information. There was nothing aboard the small Dragon Hunter ship when they caught up with it, and the sailors said little to nothing. Alfny relayed that they appeared to have done nothing except drop a few dragon eggs into the volcano, and only one was viable, producing the strange wingless creature setting with Snorker. Other dragons sniffed at the baby, then snorted and left him alone. He did not seem very popular. Alfny gave him more stew, that someone had replenished with more mutton and marrow bones, root vegetables and hardy greens. Snorker ate some too, but was just as satisfied with some smoked fish soaked in the broth.
Alfny had laid out the egg shell shards on the table, and Pella was sketching them onto a new page in her Journal. The Mudraker Rider flipped through the pages, deciphering the small writing. The least thing whomever had copied the papers could have done was at least organized the page a little better, rather than make a literal copy of all the notes and scratch in the corners or tilted at odd angles on the side of the pages! She was several pages past the Luminous Krayfin section, which was complete with notes from the hidden information Master Fishlegs had found. More about some other flightless dragons. Then there was a page about the Cavern Crasher, praising its diet of dragon eggs. There. THERE. a small, flat dragon face with pupilless eyes peered out of a bubbly line in the right top corner of the Cavern Crasher page. It had frills around its head and two long horns pointing forward coming from its forehead.
Would the Howlian be a Viking's best friend in war against dragons, were it not for the fact that it is a dragon itself. For this large beast has little interest in Vikings, but would gladly hunt down another dragon to sup on. It swims in liquid stone in heated mountains, a favorite place for other dragons to roost. It seems to absorb the heat and fires of other dragons, then send it back in bright explosive charges channeled through its horns like staffs of death. A Viking may consider leaving the Howlian be to do its dragon-slaying work, or perhaps aid it against fireless dragons.
"Oh ... OH" Alfny muttered. Things clicked into place. She pushed her book over to Pella. "I found him, I think. A Howlian."
Pella lit up instantly and started immediately jotting notes. "Probably a Stoker Class. Must have a high Attack value ..." she murmured, more to the page than to Alfny.
"But this makes sense, right? A dragon that eats other dragons. The Dragon Hunters were trying to put them here to wreak havoc on the island," Alfny surmised. "I need to tell the others." She grabbed up a stray Terrible Terror, and jotted a note to Birgr. He was still on the island of course, but who knows where exactly. The Terror flapped off after eating a smoked herring.
Alfny looked over to Snorker and the baby ... the baby Howlian. It made sense now, that Snorker wanted to assert dominance early on. Maybe the baby wouldn't grow up to eat him later on. He seemed to sense the predator in the baby, yet still - literally - took him under his wing. She went over and scratched the two beasts. The Howlian lifted his chin so she could get underneath. His empty white eyes belied nothing, but shifting the head for scratches was pretty universal.
Birgr stomped in, followed closely by Ragna, and a few moments later by Varinn. She explained what she had found.
"Then we need to take him somewhere else!" Birgr boomed, causing Snorker to grumble at the loudness.
"But he's so young right now, he might not survive. And we don't know where any others are," Alfny countered.
Birgr shook his head. "We can't risk him eating up our dragons," he said, slightly quieter. He unconsciously patted his tunic. His chest moved slightly, the little dragon sleeping there shifting.
Alfny stared at the floor. It just didn't seem right turning out a new hatchling. He would probably be eaten before he got a chance to eat another dragon.
Ragna spoke up in the silence. "Talk to some of the Riders that have Death Songs. Or Scauldrons for that matter. It might be helpful," she suggested.
Birgr huffed. "First sign of trouble, he's out of here. We need to protect our own," he explained. "And get some lessons from a Death Song Rider," he added, glancing at Ragna. She did have a point after all.
Varinn lounged near the hearth, listening and staying silent. They all looked at the Howlian. "Isn't he cute though?" Alfny asked.
"Well, uh, not especially," Birgr admitted, unable to fib. The dragonet swiveled his head to regard the tall Viking unblinkingly. Ragna jabbed Birgr in the ribs. He was as solid as an oak tree and barely noticed.
Alfny sat at a small desk in her hut. Snorker was snoring in the corner, while PuppyScale was on a fur rug chewing on a porpoise's skull. He was as high as her face at his censored withers and growing fast on a mixed diet of land creatures like yak, pigs, and reindeer. He also liked sea mammals. Birds were okay, and so were large predatory fish like sharks, swordfish, and tuna - only if she cooked and spiced them right, though. He was proving to be quite a handful, and Alfny was constantly worried about somehow 'messing up' and he might kill another dragon. There had been no incidences thus far. But she only allowed him to play with other dragons of around his own size, instructed riders of firebreathers not to shoot at him, and played lots and lots of fetch with him to burn off any excess energy. She even named him "Puppyscale", hoping a soft, friendly-sounding name might help other Riders feel more comfortable with him around. Also, he wagged his tail in happiness a lot, just like a dog. Now he was getting too big to take on patrols with her and Snorker, and she worried about leaving him alone. She also encouraged friendliness amongst the ice-breathing dragons on the Edge, as well as encouraged him to stay with them in a cavernous ice cave they had made for themselves to stay out of the heat. Snorker had taken up the role of a stern father, frequently putting him in his place and reminding him his air blast was not to be trifled with, perhaps a little more forcefully than he would have with the juvenile of another species. But other times he let PuppyScale under his wing, made sure he got food and brought him some of his own, and showed him how to socially be a (non-dragon-eating) dragon.
Alfny took a big swig of her lavender tea and looked back down at her journal. She had been drinking a lot recently. Just then, there as a light rap on her door. "Come in," she said. Puppyscale stopped chewing and grumbled a little, but stopped when he saw Varinn poke his head in. He jumped up with the skull in his mouth, took it to show Varinn, then settled back down on the rug.
Varinn shook the resulting slobber off his hands, and stepped in. "Hey, I want you to look at these," he said, walking over to her desk and pulling out a couple of old books. "You might find them helpful."
Alfny looked at the titles. "Training Hunting Dogs for Viking Dummies" and "The Sound of Hounds on the Hunt: Training Your Curs". "Why do I need books on dogs?" she asked, trying not to sound irritated. "Dragon Riders don't really need dogs since we've got dragons to train," she said, glancing at PuppyScale. "Besides, dogs are kind of like dragons, anyway."
"Exactly!" Varinn nodded vigorously. "Dogs are carnivores, you know, and would prey on lots of things, but the shepherd dog doesn't eat its sheep, and the hound doesn't kill the stag, unless the hunter wants it to. Its like we use their predator instincts to do things we want them to."
Alfny thumbed through one of the Books, not quite getting his point. "But I can't let him hunt dragons," she pointed out the obvious.
Varinn shrugged. "Of course not. But you know some of my family has used dogs to hunt things like boar and even wolves," he paused remembering something. "And ever since those Thorstons let the boars run amok on Dragon's Edge, we've been having problems between them and the resident dragons. I think just last week they destroyed a Terrible Terror nest. They've eaten some hatchlings, too."
"Well, he does like pork," Alfny said, finally seeing his point, and warming up to it rapidly. "He could hunt boar. Get to use his predator urges. Provide food and help the dragon community." She started thumbing through the pages with more earnesty.
"PuppyScale you are going to have a job."
Dragon Name and Gender:
PuppyScale the Male Howlian
About the Howlian:
- Class: Stoker
- Attack: 20
- Speed: 17
- Armor: 26
- Firepower: 30
- Shot Limit: 3
- Venom: 0
- Jaw Strength: 15
- Stealth: 4
The Howlian can swim in lava due to their special hide that's immune to heat and plasma and can even stored charges they recieved for themself. Because of that they're also immune to many dragon's firepower. Their only weaknesses are dragons that shoot something different; ice, acid, water or sonic.
Even so they're very strong dragons and considered apex predators. They prey upon all kind of dragons, big and small and even have a reputation of being savage and cruel, occasionally killing for sport. Fortunately, human are not included on their menu, in fact there's no record of the Howlians attacking human unprovoked as they seem to found amusement and even fondness in human company. Lucky
Personality: Unsettlingly expressionless be it when showing both affection or cruelty
Fire Type: Lesser Atomic charge
Hidden Abilities: Hidden abilities: The howlian can channel their stored charges into their horn. It can be powerful enough to cause an explosion upon impact and make the attack even more fatal
- A Faering is a small clinker-built boat. It can be thought of as a small row boar or a mini Viking longship.