An Unwilling Journey
As Qiajuk tracked prey across the tundra, she saw dragons tussling ahead. She watched as two mature Grabtusk dragons rammed their thick skulls together and tried to slice open the other's neck. A smallish, mostly grey female stood by, admiring the dueling males. It was a fight to win her affections and prove themselves. Qiajuk watched closely to see what happened. Sometimes these duels got rather dangerous for the opponents, and the loser could be seriously injured.
But then the female suddenly wobbled and dropped to the ground. The males were oblivious, until one dropped to the snow. The other stopped his assault, not really sure what just happened. The he roared, as pale humans with pointy hats swarmed across the field at him, shooting poison-laced arrows. He reared up, then fell forward to the ground.
Qiajuk gasped. Those pale Viking people. Usually they traded with her people for furs and ivory, but these seemed to hunt for themselves.
"What have we here? A lost Skraeling," a gravelly voice said from behind her. It was mostly jibberish, since she knew very little Norse, but the intent was clear. She whipped around drawing her dagger, but it was too late, darkness closed in as the Viking hit her on the back of the head.
Qiajuk's head spun nauseously as her vision slowly returned. She was tightly trussed up like a deer, laying on the ground. Out on the field, blood painted the snow red as the Vikings skinned the males and hacked out their tusks and teeth, and any other bit they deemed useful. The groggy grey female stumbled in a cage of green-hued metal, sniffing blood and danger.
Qiajuk yelled in frustration and fought to free herself. She had heard Vikings dealt in slaves, and she feared the worst for herself and the wild Grabtusk.
"What'll we do with her?" one Viking asked another, grinning at her attempts to free herself.
"We only got tha one cage. Toss her in w'tha Gribtuk," the other replied. "If she's still alive when we get back, we'll sell'er off."
The first Viking grabbed her up roughly. The stupid yellow hairs didn't even know how to say a dragon name properly, from what she could understand. She screamed and bit his finger. He yelled and punched her in the face, then flung her at the grey Grabtusk in the cage. The distraught dragon in turn grabbed her, biting into her arm and hurled her into the cage bars. The world turned black again.
The world was rocking endlessly. Qiajuk was beginning to think it was not just from her throbbing head. She was painfully sore and thought perhaps her jaw was swollen. She shifted on the hard surface she was on. Where were her furs? she wondered. Then her eyes flew open and were greeted with the sight of a low-snarling dragon and a dim wooden interior of a moving sea ship. Grabtusk hides and teeth hung along the walls, stretched out to cure. She had no idea how long she was unconscious, or how far she was from her people and her land.
"What had happened to us Wolf-with-Wings?" she whispered quietly. Yep, her jaw was swollen. The dragon growled and bared her teeth at Qiajuk in warning. Perhaps the only reason the dragon hadn't eaten her was simply because humans were not viewed as a food source. But there was an unwelome occupant and the dragon would not hesitate to attack, if Qiajuk made any aggressive moves. The girl shifted a little in her corner, moving slowly so to not provoke the dragon and because she was afraid she might vomit.
A wane light appeared through a hatch above them, and a Viking stomped down. Qiajuk closed her eyes and feigned sleep. He tossed a few whole fish into the cage ans returned top-side, the brief light winking out as he closed the hatch. The Grabtusk snatched up the fish and greedily ate them down. There was going to be no food for her. There was a bucket in the cage. Qiajuk crawled slowly to it as the Wolf-with-Wings watched alertly. She dipped her hands into the cold water, slightly thickened with dragon spittle, and drank as much as her upset stomach would allow. She crawled back to her cage corner and started babbling quietly, head still throbbing and numb from the surrealness and disbelief of her situation. Perhaps she was in the tent of the tribe's medicine woman and she was merely ill and having bad dreams or hallucinations.
Qiajuk awoke again on a hard floor with hard bars digging in her back. But her head was propped on something a little less hard, but a little cushioning at the same time. Her eyes opened slowly and found the Grabtusk staring at her suspiciously. The dragon flicked her tail and yanked it from underneath Qiajuk's head.
She stood up and stretched, nearly every muscle aching. Her hard was dark black and purple with punctures where the GrabTusk had grabbed her. Qiajuk held up her arm. "See Wolf-With-Wings? For this you should owe me at least a place to lay my head." The dragon snorted. She moved to the bucket and drank some filthy water. Her belly groaned and gurgled audibly.
As if summoned by her groaning stomach, two of the men with bushes on their faces came into the ship hold, each with a bucket. One poured in more water on top of the dirty water in the cage through the bars. the other flung the contents of his bucket into the cage, and fish flopped everywhere. The Grabtusk snapped up all of the fish hungrily, save for one conspicuous herring.
"Hey, why dontcha eat yer dinner there, Missy?" one Viking laughed.
"Whaddid we put'er in there for anyway? the other asked. "She'd be so much more useful out here with us." He glared at her with a dark glint in his eye.
"The other shrugged. "We only got tha' one cage."
The one who'd asked the question grabbed a pole from the wall. Qiajuk felt increasingly uneasy. She could not understand what they were saying, but the leering expression on his face was universal. The Viking slid the pole between the cage bars and poked her with it. "Jus' go to da front and we'll let you free," he encouraged. She stayed put and shook her head. He frowned and jabbed her harder in the back. She shook her head vigorously No again, which was also rather universal, then grabbed the pole and pulled back on it, anger boiling up. "Why you little skraeling wench!" Qiajuk was week from her capture and he easily yanked the pole out of her hands. He raised it up in between the bars and swung it down hard to beat her. Qiajuk hunched up her shoulders and ducked her head instinctively as to wood came down. But the blow never landed. Instead ash rained down into her dark hair.
The Wolf-With-Wings roared, incinerating half the pole. The Viking stumbled back away from the flames licking out of the cage. The other laughed at his comrade's mishap. He flung the wooden stump away angrily, and both Vikings left the girl and dragon in silence. Foolish or not, Qiajuk crawled over to the dragon and leaned against her. The dragon growled and shivered, unused to such contact, and tried to shove the human away with her nose. Qiajuk was scared and sore and a feeling of hopelessness crept into her heart. She wrapped her arms around the prodding muzzle and started crying. The Grabtusk jerked in surprise and slipped her head away. Fine, the human could stay. The dragon reached out with her fore claws and grabbed the herring still in the cage and dropped it in the girl's lap. Surprisingly, it was still very fresh. She plucked at its scales.
"WolfWings, thank you," she began, her voice quavering. "But please forgive me." She curled up closer to the dragon's side with the fish, slowly de-scaling it with her finger nails as she talked. "Back home, I was scouting for my people, looking for sustenance," she confessed. "We were looking for a Grabtusk. But you must understand," she explained more to herself than the dragon, "We would only have taken the injured male who lost your regard. My people needed your sheltering hide and nourishing flesh. Your teeth are valuable to help provide for us. Your bones support us and grant us material for tools."
WolfWings had no idea what the human was saying, only that it was important in some way and she was upset. Being a beast of Nature, the dragon was no stranger to natural laws of eat and be eaten. But these humans containing her and the girl human here, were not looking to nourish themselves or their kin of her flesh to survive.In her wild mind, this was not very natural caging her ans slipping her away from her homeland.
Qiajuk suddenly felt unburdened. Her stomach growled again and she reluctantly began chewing on the raw fish.
Qiajuk flung the bit of fish bone away from her in frustration. She was not familiar with this mechanism at the mouth of the cage, this lock. The fish bone was soft against the hard, dragon-proof metal and snapped and crumbled.
"They cannot keep us in here forever, Wolf Wings!" she yelled in frustration. She had no idea how long they had been in the bowels of this sea vessel. Days. Weeks. Maybe months? Raw fish and filthy water. Although recently her captors had started leaving other foods, like hard whitish bland disks and wizened berries. Her stomach lurched at these new things, but greedily absorbed them. Wolfwings was not particularly interested in them, so they were meant for her. The sudden 'generosity' was unsettling, almost as if they were fattening her up.
Qiajuk scratched Wolfwings behind the eyes and flaked off her dry itchy scales Her once burnished and smooth hide was dry and dull. The dragon leaned into her hands gratefully. The two creatures had a friendly understanding. The human sat against the dragon, to wait ever more.
Qiajuk was quickly flung onto her hands as the ship lurched suddenly. The relative quiet was invaded by men shouting and - dragons roaring? Were dragons attacking the ship? Dragons cannot unlock this cage Qiajuk thought. She knew they were in the middle of a vast cold ocean. Perhaps today the sea would be accepting WolfWings and Qiajuk into her chilly embrace.
WolfWings stood up on her cramped legs and whined uncertainly with head up, sniffing the air. The incomprehensible yelling continued and the ship heaved to and fro. Dragons roared. Then finally the closed hatch exploded in flames, spilling bright light into the hold.
A huge Viking dropped down into the hold. He was as big as a young Walrus bull with legs and bristling yellow whiskers beneath his nose. He advanced upon the cage, muttering in Norse.
Wolfwings crouched and growled menacingly, moving in front of Qiajuk. The girl looked around the dragon's leg, glaring fiercely as she could. WolfWing's nostrils were flaring though, taking in all the strange scents.
The big yellow-whiskered Viking strode up to the cage without a care and inspected the lock, then looked carefully all around the cage and feeling along its top. WolfWings snapped at him through the bars once but did not breathe her flames. The Viking hardly noticed. Another Viking dropped into the hold - a female - Qiajuk notes, and part of her suddenly became excited. She hadn't seen a female for a long time. Behind the Viking woman, a dragon like none she had seen before, poked his head into the hold and squeezed in, too. He was also rather rotund like a Walrus with nearly the same color hide. Smoke curled from his nostrils. He had leathers strapped to his back, but oddly, his movements were not restricted. In fact the dragon seemed rather relaxed, and in fine shape. The strange dragon yapped once at WolfWings, almost like a casual greeting. WolfWings maintained her defensive stance, but Qiajuk saw confusion in her eyes.
The male Viking returned to the front of the cage with a frown on his face, and yanked on the door, as if brute strength would pop it open. The woman came up behind him and laid a small hand upon his arm and spoke. "Birgr, go easy. Can't you see they are afraid? She looks to be from Vinland or beyond and who knows how long they've been in here. The Gribtusk looks like she'll shred you to bits as soon as you get the cage open, too!"
"I need to free them from this cage, Ragna! I checked, there's no sign of a booby-trap mechanism."
Qiajuk frowned. She did not understand what they were saying, but she did hear the woman say 'Gribtuk'. What was so hard to say 'Grabtusk'?
The man relaxed a little and stepped back, peering into the cage. He had a determined look, but not overly threatening. The odd flaming walrus-dragon stepped over and bumped the Walrus-man to the side. WolfWing and Qiajuk exchanged a confused glance. The woman caught their exchange.
"Birgr, give BurnBelly a good pat. Or maybe mount him," Ragna asked.
"Huh? What for?" But he gave his dragon a good hearty scratch on the chin. BurnBelly knelt down, and he climbed into the saddle. Birgr's head brushed against the hold's ceiling. Burnbelly turned about and climbed out of the hold. "Hey, wait a minute!" the man protested and then was gone.
The woman was smiling to herself and then smiled gently at WolfWings and Qiajuk. "See? The dragon chooses to stay with us. He isn't a slave. And we won't hurt you," she explained, though Qiajuk couldn't understand. The woman pointed at herself. "Ragna," she said, then repeated her name "Ragna." The she pointed at WolfWings. "Gribtuk."
Qiajuk frowned again and spoke, "Grabtusk."
Ragna nodded, "Yes, Gribtuk."
Ragna repeated "Gribtuk" and pointed at her.
"Qiajuk," Ragna smiled again. She pulled out a small thin dagger and applied it to the lock, slidng it in and tweaking and turning it. She paused for a moment and pointed at Qiajuk and Wolfwings. "Help Gribtuk. Qiajuk."
Qiajuk's eyes widened. She had spoken 'Help' in the language of a tribe near her own. She stepped in front of WolfWing. The dragon turned her head to her, sensing surprise and hope in her. And that other dragon was not contained. He was free, yet allowed a human upon his back. It was strange. She looked fondly at the human by her side. But was it really so strange?
Finally something ground into place in the lock and the cage door parted. Ragna stepped to the side, so Qiajuk and WolfWings could step out themselves. Qiajuk laid a hand on the door and it creaked open. She placed a leading hand on WolfWings and stepped out slowly. She had wanted desperately to be out of the cage, but this moment almost didn't seem real. WolfWings followed.
Ragna beckoned them forward to the hole where the hatch had been. Qiajuk could see other Vikings and dragons above.
From topside, BurnBelly grabbed the edges of the hole and ripped it larger. Wolfwings hadn't spread her wings in so long she might not be able to get out on her own. Two board band were lowered into the hold. Ragna gestured for Qiajuk to loop them under WolfWing's belly. Qiajuk did not like the idea of placing bindings on her Grabtuk, but saw the dilemma. She patted WolfWings soothingly. The dragon growled, but sensed that no one meant harm and allowed her to wrap the bands around her.
Then Ragna gently pushed Qiajuk and pointed at WolfWing's back. Her eyes grew round with surprise. She wanted her to sit atop the Grabtuk? Qiajuk obliged, unsure of what else to do. WolfWings looked at her questioningly at first, but then allowed her to mount like it was natural. Once settled, the dragons above slowly lifted the girl and dragon up into the light and into freedom. But what then? Qiajuk wondered. Could she go home? Would she go home?
About the Gribtuk
The Gribtuk is a Stoker class dragon known for its distinctive tusks that sprout from its mouth. These tusks are found on both genders. During mating season, the males will bash their heads together like rams, their tough skulls avoiding injury, their muscular necks absorbing the shock, and the horns on their snouts bashing together to protect their snouts from damage. Each male will attempt to slide his head past the other's and bite into his opponent's neck, his long tusks reaching deep into the neck.
The Gribtuk's tusks are also useful for hunting. Like lions, female Gribtuks do all the hunting. Their tusks are used to crush the windpipe in order to kill their prey, which consists of deer, boar, and smaller dragons. These dragons, much like a rhino or elephant, are often poached for their tusks and horn. Because of it, they are an endangered species.
A Gribtuk's fire is more of a lava-like substance, like a Monstrous Nightmare's.
- Attack: 20
- Speed: 13
- Armor: 19
- Firepower: 14
- Shot limit: 3
- Venom: 0
- Jaw strength: 18
- Stealth: 13
- Trainable: Yes
In the HTTYD original Book series, author Cressida Cowell mentions another people called "The Wanderers". It is unclear if they are a completely fictitious people or are based in real life. There are indigenous Arctic peoples that could be whom the author was referring, such as the Saami who live in Norway, Finland, and parts of Russia. There are also the Arctic Native American peoples, such as the proto-Inuits. Vikings are known to have traveled to North America and landed on Greenland, Newfoundland (referred to as Vinland by the Vikings), and Baffin Island. They most likely stopped other places, but not to make settlements, just to trade. They did trade with the Native American tribes of the time, often for furs and Walrus Ivory. I imagine Qiajuk from a Native American tribe of the time, thought not with any specificity. Many of the tribes were nomadic "Wanderers".
- Unfortunately, one of the largest trade commodities for Vikings were slaves, also known as Thralls.
- The Viking Norse word for the natives they encountered in Arctic America was skraelings. This means "savages", "Primitives", or "barbarians". It is possible it has a somewhat derogatory connotation.
- The name "Qiajuk" is a variation of the Greenlandic name "K'iajuk", meaning "crying one". I had a hard time finding at least a somewhat suitable name!
- Birgr the Brash, featured in Qiajuk's story, has his own story.