This character was created to accompany a fan-species dragon called the Dawnknapper. Dawnknappers are the invention of AndreaEaston on the School of Dragons Forum thread, "Adopt a Dawnknapper! Taking Requests!".
Unna Undrdaug rocked gently to and fro on the back of her green Gronckle, Crumbit, as she and her team soared through the air. The team of five Dragon Riders were scouting the seas to the West of Outpost Island and North of Berk. They flew in a diagonal line across the sky with Unna and Pella on her Groncicle at the forward end, setting the pace for the rest of the team. The pace was neither too fast nor too slow, but suitable for long-distance flights to conserve energy. No use expending energy early on just in case they actually came across a Dragon Hunter ship or some other craft needing attention. Unna's thick, dark gold hair was twisted into two wide plaits at either side of her head, and thumped her shoulders in the breeze. Everyone cast their eyes downward in front of them, scanning the sea, though sometimes their eyes saw nothing as their mind wandered away from the monotony of the endless sea. Sea dragons and whales passed by occasionally, and once and a while, a fishing ship bobbed in the water. The people aboard would shift nervously, not sure if the dragons passing overhead were friend or foe.
Yet another ship loomed up from the horizon, a knarr built for hauling supplies. Probably a merchant ship returning from a voyage to the South. Someone aboard was tossing fish overboard. Even if they were turning bad, if you could salt them and bury them quick enough, you'd have a nice fermented fish dish for when food was scarce. Or a case of Magni's revenge. Or a tasty dragon treat. To Unna's left, Ylva's Snifflehunch growled, inhaling the air and sucking it in to his mouth to taste, growing increasingly agitated. Annefrid, their team leader on her Nightmare yelled angrily. "Unna, Pella get them out of the water!" she ordered, pointing at the sea behind the ship's wake. "You," she collectively gestured to Eistla and Yvla, "get those sons of yak sh--" the rest was drowned out in her dive toward the ship.
Pella gasped loudly and dropped like a rock toward the sea. Unna followed suit determinedly to ... she wasn't sure what, but her countless hours of training cut through any hesitation. A little lower in the sky and she gasped herself. Crumbit uttered an angry 'yayayaya' on the way to the sea. Six little definitely-not-fishes bobbed on the surface in a line stretching behind the merchant ship. There was a flap here and there and the not-fishes started sinking into the sea. With the agility only the small-winged dragons could muster, Crumbit and Pella's Groncicle hovered and dipped quickly so their riders could grab up the drowning creatures. Baby dragons.
Pella grabbed three and hung on to the sopping-wet creatures. Crumbit tilted to the side so Unna could grab up one baby, then went half into the water to scoop up another in his wide mouth, water pouring away and revealing another baby laying on his pink tongue. The final hatchling, the one farthest out, had already sunk beneath the surface and floated gently downward. It was either already dead or close to it. Unna took a deep breath, tucked the first baby under one arm, slid down her Deathsong amber goggles, and Crumbit submerged completely into the water. His stubby wings chopped the water and propelled them several yards under the waves. Unna reached out and grabbed a drab bony tail and drew the limp body toward her. Crumbit bobbed quickly back to the surface and into the air to dry as fast as possible. The first baby sputtered, the second was merely moist from Crumbit's breath, and the third lay still. She firmly but gently squeezed the baby's rib cage, and after a moment she spit out cold salty water. She cracked open her mouth and sucked in lungfuls of air. Then her jaw clamped shut tightly, on Unna's golden left braid. Her eye cracked open for just a moment, stared at Unna in the face and slammed shut again. It was a rich yellow-orange, with streaks of gold, and a dark brown pupil that reminded Unna of an inclusion in a piece of polished Baltic amber. The moment passed and the two Riders and dragons quickly buzzed back to the miscreants aboard the trader ship.
Eistla and her Flightmare clung to the side of the ship, thin wisps of bluish smoke rising from the dragon's mouth threateningly. The sailors were all frozen stiff, save for what appeared to be the leader or head merchant. He was a middle-aged man with salted brown hair and beard. He wore black garments and dark-colored dragon skins. There was a gold-filigreed volcano on a shoulder. Lava-louts. They were as bad as or possibly worse than Dragon Hunters and no friends of the Hooligans. Annfrid had dismounted and held a sword out pointed at the merchant with her Nightmare growling behind. Ylva and her Snifflehunch stayed in the air, ready to offer assist. Unna looked about the deck and saw a small grubby cage with what appeared to be clumps of fish chum. Nearby were dragon eggs practically rolling on the deck, appearing to have been unpacked from crates. They looked wet.
"I can't have anymore hatch! Clients pay for the eggs, not mangy dragon-rats! I couldn't even sell those Exotic Smokebreaths for their hide! Look at 'em!" He gestured widely at Pella and Unna and the hatchlings. Indeed, they were only a few days old perhaps but already had the look of undernourishment and their varyingly colored hides all had matching reddened patches and scales flaking off with some kind of rash. "I even wasted food on them!" The merchant gesticulated. He took a breath and continued in a more calm tone. "Really, it would be best to put them out of their misery," he said, attempting to add some empathy to his voice. "And I need to save the food for the crew, right? Tough decisions need to be made," he shrugged as if he hadn't had a choice.
"The only concern you have is to your bottom line!" Annfrid stating forcefully, wheedling the sword closer to the man's throat. "We'll be taking them," Annfrid jerked her head toward the hatchlings. "And them," she tipped her head at the eggs.
"What!? No! They're just animals! And those eggs are worth a lot!" the merchant stepped forward angrily.
"Veal calves get treated better!" Unna blurted out angrily.
Annfrid's Nightmare bent over next to his Rider and flamed up his head, rumbling menacingly. Annfrid sneered at him, then addressed Unna and Pella without shifting her glance. "Pack up the eggs and babes." Unna and Pella landed their compact dragons on deck. "Oh and pick up any medical supplies, too. We might need them to treat these hatchlings," Annfrid added. The merchant's face turned dark and he growled almost like a dragon, but didn't move. "Eistla." Annfrid gestured toward the merchant, and the Flightmare puffed a blue cloud at the trader. He stiffened unnaturally and stood still. Annfrid relaxed, just a fraction, and sheathed her sword.
Unna came up behind her. "We should just throw them overboard and take the whole ship. They don't deserve any of this!" she said quietly, but her loathing tone loud and clear. Annfrid furrowed her brow, briefly indecisive.
Pella also came up with two babies and pushed them toward Annfrid. Her Nightmare was nice and toasty for cold, wet little bodies. "We're Vikings. We raid and pillage right? It's for a good cause, right?" Pella said, working up to the true point of the conversation.
Unna lowered her eyes and sighed. "And we'd be no better than them," she finished, turning away and set to work packing the eggs carefully in saddlebags. She transferred the first baby she had grabbed into Crumbit's large maw. It was moist and warm, better than the chilly air in the sky. And If a Gronckle can fit sheep safely in their mouths, the dragon babies would have a comfy ride. Except the third one. She refused to let go of Unna's braid. She tucked the little beast into her jacket as best she could and carried on. Ylva came down to fill her saddlebags. Eistla packed what appeared to be medicinal herbs into her bags. Flightmares were small can couldn't manage too big of a load on long journeys. Annfrid ended up with three babies tucked away at her Nightmare's side. The paralysis on the men were beginning to wear off and all the Riders launched into the air. The Riders turned away, but at the last minute, Annfrid gestured to the ship. "Take out the mast." Pella's Groncicle lobbed her cold breath at the base of the mast, encasing it in ice. Annfrid's Nightmare then engulfed the top and sail in flames, reducing it to a charred stub. Because of the ice, the ship was safe, but without any way to catch the winds, the merchant and his crew were dead in the water. Perhaps someone would come along and help them. Or they could row. And in the mean time, they'd have to live off their ample trade goods. The Rider team set off for Berk to the South. The strange baby rolled up in a ball, nestling against Unna's hair.
The team of five arrived at Berk in the evening and headed directly to the Dragon Hangar. The women immediately started moving the babies to a warm and dry hearth on some soft furs. There were dragons and some people moving about. Unna beckoned over a skinny boy nearby rubbing down his dragon, which looked kind of like a Speed Stinger with wings and two sets of eyes. She's have to look that one up in her Book of Dragons ... later. "Hey, can you go get Gothi quickly please?" she asked. The boy nodded and ran off, his dragon right on his heels.
The baby gripping Unna's braid would not let go so she could place her with her siblings. She tried to gently pry her mouth open, but was only rewarded with needle-sharp baby teeth pricking her finger pad. Ylva, Annfrid, and Eistla unloaded the eggs and got them situated near another fire to be assessed later. Pella came up beside Unna with her Groncicle behind, and peered again at the babies. "Hey, didn't that awful man say that these were Exotic Smokebreaths?"
"Yeah, I think so," Unna replied. "I wasn't listening too closely to his excuses though."
Pella glanced up at the rafters where a small group of well-behaved 'regular' Smothering Smokebreaths roosted, puffing out small clouds of grey smoke. She glanced back down at the baby attached to Unna's hair. "'Exotic' is just the same as the 'regular' species, but maybe a different color. They're still Smokebreaths. But these don't look exactly like the baby Smokebreaths I've seen." Unna looked at the baby closer. She actually had a short neck, whereas the usual Smokebreath's head blended right into its body. The tail was different too; the jagged frills along the full length of tail were missing. And she just seemed bigger than what a few-days old Smokebreath would look like.
Pella pulled out her Book of Dragons from her Groncicle's saddlebags and started thumbing through it. All Dragon Riders had their own personal Book of Dragons, separate from the Book of Dragons. Part of their dragon education had been to copy and learn about the dragons in their own book, and were expected to continue taking dragon notes as a Rider. Pella was by far the most studious of the five women and therefore had the most informative and complete tome. As she was looking through her book, a Berkian trader - Unna thought she recalled his name to be Tarvald - strode up, with a lanky boy behind him carrying his own journal. "I heard you had a run in with a merchant? Can I ask the details?" the trader asked Unna. Of course a trader would want to keep tabs on other traders - their origins and cargo. She briefly summarized their encounter. "Yeah, those Lava-Louts truck in dragons. Human slaves, too. They were probably headed to some Dragon Hunter port with those eggs," he said, rubbing his finger sympathetically on the baby dragon's head. She opened her eye lids and snorted, but still refused to let go of Unna's hair. The boy crowded in and stared at the baby excitedly. "Oh, that's not a Smokebreath!" and opened up his own journal. Tarvald shrugged at the boy's exuberance. "Ramblejorn here is tagging along to learn about trading, other cultures, and most especially about dragons outside of the Archipelago," he tried to explain. The boy seemed oblivious to being talked about.
"Here! I think it's a Dawnknapper!" he exclaimed, pointing at a rough-shod image of a Smokebreath-esque dragon.
Pella's brow furrowed briefly at not figuring it out first, but then excitedly looked over Ramblejorn's shoulder. "Oh, do you mind if I reference your journal?" The two stepped aside and compared notes. Tarvald moved on to speak with Annfrid. Unna sighed and started unpacking the medical supplies they had relieved the Lava-Lout of, and carefully laid them out. She didn't know what most of the herbs and such were, but a few looked familiar. Suddenly the baby Dawnknapper or whatever she was rattled softly and something tapped Unna on the head. An old slumped woman leaned over her and poked a bundle of thick succulent leaves with her decorated staff. Gothi had arrived.
Unna picked up the pointy leaves and handed them over to the silent old woman. She took them and tucked them under her arm, then gently poked and stroked the hatchling attached to Unna. The baby opened her eyes and shied away a little, watching the old woman. She then shuffled over to the other babies nestled at the warm hearth and looked them over. Her purple Gronckle appeared suddenly, and Gothi pulled out what looked to be lavender, clean rendered lard, and a wide mortar and pestle set. She dropped in the lavender and ground it up, mixed in a goop of lard, then took the strange thick leaves and cut off a bit of the wide end. She then proceeded to squeeze out the leaves' innards, which was gooey and clear. She mixed everything thoroughly and nodded to herself. By this time the other Riders moved back over to the babies. Gothi pushed the bowl in the middle of them, and each slathered on the rich salve onto the babies' inflamed skin. Unna massaged the amber eyed dragonet. At first she flinched, but then as Unna gently rubbed the soothing salve over her flaking and red skin, she pressed into it. She never let go of Unna's braid though. It was starting to get wet and a little smelly with dragon spit.
The hatchlings appeared much more comfortable, or at least soothed, with the greasy, herbal-smelling ointment over their bodies. The little amber-eyed one attached to Unna's braid was smearing it on Unna's clothes, but she didn't mind. The lavender smelled nice and the lard was rendered well, with very little 'porky' odor.
Once Gothi nodded in approval, satisfied the babies were properly treated, she addressed the Riders by moving her one hand from her other hand's flattened palm to her mouth. This was fairly understandable - she wanted them to feed the babies. Eistla retrieved a large perch from elsewhere in the hangar, pulled out her dagger, and cut it into six pieces, which she then handed off to the other Riders. Because the babes were small, they coarsely chopped up the fish in small bite-size pieces. Each baby was presented a pile, except the amber-eyes one, who still refused to let go of Unna's braid. She held up a piece and the baby shifted away from it up onto her shoulder, dragging the braid with her. The others sniffed at the perch flesh an shied away from it. One bluish baby suddenly vomited up phlegm and bile on it. Gothi frowned. Perhaps they didn't like Perch? It was a pretty benign fish, and blander than salmon or some others with strong flavors. Perhaps they were nauseous from their horrible ordeal? Gothi appeared to be think for a few minutes. Annfrid called her Nightmare over, and in a blink, the Perch was cleaned from the hearth stones with a flick of his tongue. No sense it letting the fish go to waste.
Gothi turned to the Riders again to address them. She flapped her arms up and down, waved her derriere, and pawed at the floor with one foot. "I don't know what she's doing," Pella whispered. Gothi threw up her arms in exacerbation and grabbed her cane. In a small ashy area in the hearth, she scribbled out am image.
Unna glanced over her shoulder. "Oh, I think that's a chicken! I think she wants us to try feeding them chicken," she figured out, pleased she had guessed something right, when she saw Gothi nod affirmative. Eistla dashed off in another direction, and came back with half a stewed chicken, appearing to have been kifed out of a stew pot somewhere. Again the women tore the chicken into small bits and offered them to the babies. The five situated on the hearth sniffed at the pieces. A green one tentatively stuck out its tongue and tasted the chicken. None backed away. The green baby then licked a piece into its mouth and swallowed. No one vomited. After a moment they all started chewing on the chicken, all except Amber-Eye.
Unna fished out her own dagger and a thin piece of leather twine from her belt. She held them out to Pella. "Please." she said simply.
"You sure?" Pella asked, tying the cord around her left braid that the baby was attached to. Unna nodded. Pella sawed through her dark golden hair, freeing it and the baby from Unna. With the baby detached, she placed AmberEye on the hearth with a small pile of chicken. She sniffed at the chicken and nosed it, still with the braid in her mouth, then looked from side to side. She appeared to consider that the chicken would not get into her mouth without letting go of the braid. Finally she sat it down next to her and chewed slowly on the chicken, until it was all gone. AmberEye burped, satisfied. She picked up the braid again like a puppy's chew toy, and waddled off the hearth toward Unna. She was having a difficult time doing so from weakness, and tripped overthe hanging braid. Unna picked the baby up and she nestled into her coat and closed her eyes to sleep. Unna sighed. "Crumbit, I hope you don't mind a getting a sibling," she murmured, stroking the sleeping babe.
About the Dawnknapper
- The creator, AndreaEaston, has put a lot of thought into this species, and has written up extensive information on a separate page. View it at her Deviantart page.
Succulent Herbal Leaves
- The leaves Gothi uses that the Dragon Riders took from the merchant ship are meant to be from the Aloe plant (Aloe vera). It originated in the Arabian Peninsula, and has spread to North Africa and some places along the Mediterranean. Historical Vikings traded with most of these areas, so it is possible they came in contact with Aloe. It has been used in herbal medicines for thousands of years.
- The Lava-Louts are a Viking Tribe appearing in the How to Train Your Dragon original book series. They are enemies of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, and make use of slaves, both human and dragons, especially to work in their mines. They are known to wear black dragon skins which are mostly impervious to fire. In this story I adapted it to dark clothing and dragon skins, similar to how the Dragon Hunters wear parts of dragon skins. Lava-Lout Island does appear (somewhat) in the HTTYD Franchise game Dragons: Rise of Berk, but not the tribe itself.
- Human slaves were one of the top three 'goods' historic Vikings traded in.
- Also appearing in the game, Dragons: Rise of Berk, are 'Exotic' dragons. Essentially they are somewhat 'fancier' varieties of dragon species that Trader Johann brings to the players for them to attain.
- Per the creator, Dawnknappers are allergic to fish. In cats and dogs, food allergies often manifest as problems with their skin - redness, itchiness, and secondary bacterial and yeast infections. So in this story, the Dawnknapper hatchlings have all broken out in rashes from being fed fish chum, which they had no other option but to eat or starve, while on the merchant ship.