Chapter 2

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Merida threw herself across her father's chest and sobbed loudly. One of her fists wrapped around his sash and the other wrapped around his shirt. "Wake up," she gasped into the front of his shirt. Then more loudly. "Wake up! Wake up!" Her demands dissolved into more sobs.

Scottish sailors that were already part of the circle of spectators gasped. Some spread the news to others standing further back in the crowd; others merely looked stunned. Soon the Great Hall was filled with the buzzing of the crowd's anxious murmurings. A Scottish sailor in the crowd angrily shouted, "Traitors! Murderers!" The other Scotsmen agreed and took up the accusation.

Hiccup could hardly believe how quickly a peaceful gathering had broken up as he watched the once-friendly faces turn bitter with anger and hatred toward each other. Both sides had harsh words to say on this matter. Lord MacGuffin shoved his way through the crowd. His angry scowl was replaced by a shocked expression. "No! How can this be?!"

Gothi gently tapped his shoulder with the end of her staff. She drew on the floor. Lord MacGuffin thought she was showing off her artistic skills. "Not now, woman!"

"No!" Hiccup yelled to be heard above the now diminishing racket. "She's trying to say something." He had recognized the picture she had drawn: a face with an "X" underneath it. "She says he was poisoned."

"'Poisoned'?!" Lord MacGuffin repeated. The other lords and their sons appeared at the edge of the crowd as other Scotsmen shouted in outrage. Dragons in the room grew restless, shifting on their feet and growling at the foreigners.

With red-rimmed eyes, Merida stood and glared at Chief Stoick. "I should have known," she declared, her voice low and full of malice, "you Vikings would resort to treachery."

Hiccup took hold of her shoulder. "Merida," he insisted, "we didn't poi –."

The princess smacked his arm away. "Don't you lie to me, Hiccup," she screamed hysterically, "while my father lies dead on the floor!"

Stunned, Hiccup stumbled away from her verbal attack. When he backed up into Toothless, the dragon wrapped a wing defensively around his rider and growled softly at the redhead. Hiccup tried to shove the wing away, but Toothless adamantly protected his Viking.

"Enough!" roared Stoick. "If you Scotsmen will not cooperate and settle down, then you'll have to leave Berk."

Lord Macintosh clenched his fists at his side. "We wouldn't plan on doin' anything else."

Lord MacGuffin waved his son over to one of the tables. The brawny lord grabbed the end of a bench with both hands. "And," he growled, glaring directly at the Viking chief, "you can forget about the peace negotiations." His muscles strained for only a moment before the bench broke away from the table. He and his son took two benches to create a makeshift stretcher on which to carry their king's body.

Restrained by Toothless, Hiccup helplessly watched the scene before him. Merida knelt beside her father's body, holding his hand. When the MacGuffin leaders raised their king on the stretcher, Merida stood with them. She continued to stay with her dad as the funeral procession exited the building. Even though she did not turn around, Hiccup had already seen the tears that rolled down her grief-stricken face. The Scotsmen left the Great Hall, glaring at and shoving nearby Vikings.

"But," Hiccup said quietly, "we did nothing wrong."

The Scotsmen sailed away that very night. From the top of a cliff, Hiccup watched them leave. He was still so shocked. How could this have happened?

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