A Quick Read — Sparring

Lest everyone forget that I do, in fact, write on occasion, I offer a little snippet I wrote a while ago. It’s technically fanfiction in the sense that I used characters from How to Train Your Dragon. Bryn is an original character, and I have this entire backstory in my head of who she is and how she came to be on Berk. Long story short, she’s from a fishing village that was destroyed by a dragon and she escaped by ship. (I actually have the plot of her debut on Berk in my head, but I will most likely never write it. Which is sad because it’s a pretty darn good story if I do say so myself.)

Anyway, Gobber’s been trying to train her to fight, but she’s not really getting it. A fact that Snotlout finds simultaneously entertaining and annoying.




Bryn grunted as Snotlout’s staff connected solidly with her side. Again.

“Do you need a minute?” he asked, resting the staff on his shoulder. “We could take a break.”

“No,” she grunted through gritted teeth. “I’m fine. Let’s keep going.”

“You haven’t landed a hit on me all morning,” he said, shrugging. “What’s the point?”

Bryn said nothing, but leaned on her staff for support. In truth she wasn’t as fine as she claimed — her entire body felt like one big bruise. She ached from an unknown number of blows, inflicted from countless sparring matches. Today was Snotlout, but she had also sparred with Fishlegs, and the twins in the past week. Hiccup and Astrid would occasionally stop by to observe and offer tips, but were generally too busy patrolling or handling official island duties to stay long or actively participate in her warrior training.

“He’s right, lass,” Gobber said as he hobbled toward the pair. “I’m all for a good sparring, but this, well, this is just embarrassing.”

“I’ll say,” Tuffnut said from his spot on the sidelines. “I’m embarrassed for you. You know, cause you’re really bad.”

Bryn glanced at her audience. When not actively sparring, the others had gotten into the habit of watching her train. Ruffnut sat beside her brother, and poked him hard in the side with her elbow. Fishlegs sat on the other side of Ruffnut, with Meatlug close by. He offered Bryn a small smile and wave.

“Ugh,” the brunette muttered, resting her forehead on the staff. “Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a warrior.”

Gobber threw a dismissive hand wave in her direction. “Oh, now don’t give up so easily,” he said, slapping a hand onto her shoulder. He withdrew quickly when she grunted in pain. “Sorry. Anyway, as I was saying, it’s not time to give up quite yet. I’ve trained just about every warrior on Berk and haven’t failed so far!”

Snotlout uttered a derisive laugh. “Gobber, don’t waste your time. We’ve been at this for weeks. She’s a lost cause.”

Bryn turned to give him a sneer. “She’s also standing right here, you know,” she snapped. “And she doesn’t appreciate your snide tone.”

“Oh I’m sorry,” Snotlout said, voice dripping with sarcasm. “Did I hurt your wittle feelings? Well too bad babe, because sometimes the truth hurts.”

Gobber held up his good hand. “Snotlout–”

“If you think I’m such a lost cause, what are you still doing here?” Bryn asked with a scowl. “Why keep coming?”

“For the entertainment,” he said with a shrug. “I think it’s hilarious that Fishlegs can win a sparring match against you. I mean, I knew you were bad but come on. Fishlegs?!”

Snotlout laughed, but was cut short when Bryn delivered a quick blow with her staff to his helmet. “Hey!”

“Oh I’m sorry,” Bryn said with an exaggerated bat of her eyes. “Must have slipped.”

“Can we focus please!” Gobber yelled, drawing their attention. “Now, as I was saying. Bryn, you obviously need a different fighting method. Frontal attacks are, well, let’s just say they’re not your forte.”

“Because you suck,” Snotlout added, and was immediately answered with another knock with Bryn’s staff. “Ow!”

Her eyes never left Gobber. “Please continue.”

“Every Viking has a strength that helps them in battle,” the old blacksmith explained. “Some are adept with a certain type of weapon, some are very strong or agile. That kind of thing. We just need to figure out your strength. What you’re most skilled at.”

“How about sucking?” Snotlout offered with a snort. “Cause really, that’s the only thing I’ve seen her be really good at.”

“Yeah, she’s really good at being really bad!” Tuffnut snickered from the sidelines.

Bryn ignored him and focused on Snotlout. “You really don’t have to be here, you know. Why don’t you take your muscles for a walk or something.”

“And miss watching you fail miserably at even the most basic Viking training?” He said, eyebrow raised. “No way!”

“I never claimed to be a warrior,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Oh you’ve proven that,” Snotlout said, nodding. “But you’re so bad you make Fishlegs look like a competent fighter.” He looked at Fishlegs. “No offense.”

Fishlegs shrugged. “Eh, that’s fair.”

“Shut up,” Bryn said, the hand holding her staff tightening.

“I think we may be getting a wee bit off track,” Gobber said. “Maybe we should take a break. Who’s hungry!”

Snotlout ignored him. “You haven’t learned a thing in all this training. It’s been nothing but a huge waste of time.”

“Shut up,” Bryn said, louder than before. “Just shut up Snotlout.”

“Anyone up for mutton sandwiches?” Gobber said, backing toward the teens on the sidelines. “I make a mean dipping sauce!”

“You’ll never be a Viking, Bryn,” Snotlout said, his face pulled into his usual scowl. “You’ll never learn to fight. You’re too soft. You’re the worst warrior I’ve ever seen. EVER. You’re so bad I don’t think there’s even a word for how horrible you are.”


Bryn swung her staff, narrowly missing Snotlout’s head when he ducked. She swung again as she advanced on him, and caught his side as he swerved in an effort to regain his footing. He grunted at the blow but was upright again a second later, staff at the ready.

“Don’t you ever get tired of getting your butt kicked?” he asked with a smirk.

“Don’t you ever get tired of hearing your own voice?” she replied with a scowl. “Because I know I’m pretty sick of it.”

She attacked, swinging her staff in wide arcs for his side, legs, and neck. Snotlout blocked each strike with barely an effort.

“Really?” he asked, an eyebrow raised. “We’re really going to do this again?”

Bryn stepped back, brandishing her staff before her. “We’ll keep doing it until I beat you.”

Snotlout uttered a sharp laugh. “Babe, that’s never gonna happen.”

Without another word, Snotlout attacked. He moved too quickly for Bryn to block, and landed blows on her side, shoulder, and thigh. Each new injury drew a grunt of pain from the girl, but she refused to cry out. She didn’t want to give Snotlout that satisfaction.

“Aw, come on,” he said, planting a hand on his hip. “You weren’t even trying!”

Bryn said nothing, but moved in a wide circle to Snotlout’s left. He mirrored her movements, and they soon wound up on the opposite end of the field.

“So are we going to do this or play ring around the rosy all day?” He asked with an annoyed sigh. “Cause I’ve got stuff to do later.”

With a grunt, Bryn launched herself at the stockier Viking. His face registered surprise for a split second before Bryn’s staff knocked him in the side of the face. She whirled her body around and brought the other end against his upper arm. Snotlout blocked her next three blows, then delivered a jarring knock to her head, bloodying her nose and making her stagger back.

Momentarily stunned, Bryn closed her eyes until the light-headed feeling faded. When she opened them again, Snotlout was watching her. His expression was unreadable, but at least he wasn’t talking.

“What are you staring at?” she asked, wiping her bloody nose with a sleeve.

Snotlout, surprisingly, said nothing. He stood still, staff resting on his left shoulder. Just, staring.

“You know, you don’t have to do this, Bryn,” Fishlegs called from his spot off to the side. “Why don’t you call it a day? You can pick it back up tomorrow.”

Bryn leaned on her staff. Part of her wanted to heed this advice. She was tired. Every muscle ached. And it seemed that no matter what she did, she would never beat Snotlout in a sparring match. He was too fast, too strong. Too good.

But another part of her, that stubborn part that kept pushing her forward when she felt most like giving up, said no. There was no way she was going to give in and let this cocky muscle-head win. There had to be a way to beat him. She just hadn’t seen it yet.

It was this part that made her straighten and pick up her staff.

“No. This ends today. If I don’t beat you Snotlout, you get your wish. We stop training.”

Snotlout said nothing, but raised an eyebrow.

“If you win, I quit,” Bryn said. “Deal?”

“If it means I don’t have to have anymore of these pointless matches with you, or waste my time on training that never takes, deal.”

Bryn nodded, and assumed a defensive stance. Snotlout twirled his staff almost jovially, his eyes never leaving Bryn.

Suddenly the stocky Viking took off, running toward Bryn with this staff raised.

Bryn stood where she was, and watched him approach. An idea suddenly surfaced, and it seemed almost too simple to work.

As Snotlout closed the distance, Bryn sidestepped, spun around as he appeared where she had stood a second before, and smacked her attacker in the back. Hard. Harder than she intended, but the satisfaction of that meaty “WHACK” made her smile. Snotlout grunted in pain and skidded to a halt.

“What was that??” he cried, pointing his staff at her. “What kind of attack was that?”

Bryn said nothing, the smile still on her face. She saw it, finally. His weakness. He was all about the offensive–rushing forward, attacking with his strength and momentum. If you were in the way, you got the full brunt of his powerful blows. That was something she was all too familiar with. There was no way she could match him in attacks, he would always overpower her. But if she could get him off-balance, it left him vulnerable.

She backed up a few paces, and resumed her defensive stance.

Snotlout glared at her for a moment before moving to his right. She moved to her left, matching his pace and keeping the distance between them even. He was smiling, and offered her a raised eyebrow.

“So you got a lucky strike in, good for you!” he said with a smirk. “Doesn’t mean you’ll win.”

“Go on, then,” she said, holding her staff before her. “Let’s end it.”

Snotlout stopped moving and swirled his staff, passing it from hand to hand. Suddenly he lunged forward, running toward her full tilt and staff held at his side. Bryn stood where she was, watching his approach with mounting fear. If she was wrong, if she timed her move even a second too late, she was going to receive a really, really bad headache.

Drawing a deep breath, Bryn took a few steps forward when Snotlout was only a few yards away. He closed the distance fast and swung his staff up to land his blow. She went to one knee as he neared, threatening to not only cold-cock her but bowl her over as well, and held her staff horizontally before her. With a grunt, she shoved the weapon forward, catching him in the calf, and pushed up with all her might. His momentum propelled him forward, and he flipped over her, coming to rest hard on his back.

“Ah, that’s interesting,” Gobber muttered from the sidelines. He narrowed his eyes as he took in the scene. The teens next to him uttered surprised laughter at the sudden change in the match.

Bryn regained her feet and stepped back, an excited smile on her lips as she watched her opponent on the ground.

The landing pushed all the wind from Snotlout’s lungs, and he laid where he was for a moment.

Bryn’s sudden turnaround surprised him, and, if he was quite honest with himself, kind of ticked him off. The others were laughing. She was making a fool of him. The girl who hadn’t been able to land a single decent strike in WEEKS had now not only avoided his attacks, but dealt him two pretty painful blows in the process.

He rolled and pushed himself into a half-kneeling position. The scowl had returned, and he pegged Bryn with a dark look. She looked back, her expression unreadable, but she tightened the grip on her staff.

“Okay then,” he said, pulling himself into an upright position. “Care to make things more interesting?”

She narrowed her eyes. “What did you have in mind?”

He strolled toward the weapon rack, almost casually. “Since you seem to suddenly be so competent, why don’t we stop messing around?” He replaced the staff and took up a large, heavy hammer. “No holding back. Let’s see how good you are.”

Bryn swallowed hard. Getting wallopped with a wooden staff was one thing. A rock-headed hammer would likely crack her skull. And the look on Snotlout’s face said he meant to inflict any pain he could. She had ticked him off, and an angry Snotlout is a violent Snotlout.

How confident was she in her new strategy?

She didn’t have much time to contemplate this query, as he moved toward her, raising his hammer. Instead of running he walked at a brisk pace, watching her stance and movements to anticipate her counterattack.

Bryn stepped backward, narrowly avoiding three of his powerful hammer swings by dodging and ducking out of the way. She heard and felt the breeze as the weapon passed her ear on the last swing, and fear tangled her feet together. She fell backwards, and Snotlout towered over her with his hammer raised above his head. A second later it was on the downswing, and Bryn held her staff before her to block.

The result was both predictable and jarring. Snotlout’s hammer slammed through the wood like kindling, snapping the staff in two with a loud CRACK. The force of the blow sent violent vibrations up her arms and into her shoulders, stunning her for a second. The broken ends of the staff rained splinters down, and a long sliver jutting from the wood sliced into Bryn’s right hand. She hissed at the sharp pain, then gasped and pulled back as the hammer flew again, coming within inches of her head. She ended up flat on her back, and Snotlout stepped forward, planting a foot on either side of her.

He smiled down in that smug, annoying way that made her unconsciously sneer, and lifted the hammer above his head. Almost without thinking, Bryn flipped the wooden sticks around and swung them against her opponent’s sides, about an inch below his armpits. They connected solidly, and he grunted, drawing his arms down quickly in response to the pain. Snotlout curled forward at the waist, and Bryn brought the right stick against his head. He fell sideways, and she rolled the opposite way to regain her footing before he recovered.

She had just pulled up on her knees when his hand clamped down on her ankle. He dragged her backwards, almost growling in his anger. She rolled, bringing her right stick up for another blow to the head. Snotlout was expecting it, and blocked it before it found its mark. He tore the stick from her hand and hurled it behind him.

Blind panic set in, and Bryn squirmed and kicked for release. His grip was like iron, and he dodged and blocked her attacks with little effort. She punched him, connecting solidly with his nose and drawing blood. He barely registered it as he released her ankle and clamped his hand onto her left wrist. He meant to pin her, rendering her defenseless and ending the fight.

In truth, he was mildly impressed by her success so far. But he had a reputation to uphold, and it wouldn’t do to be beaten by a girl who, just moments before, couldn’t even block properly.

Bryn flailed her free arm, twisting and flicking it in unpredictable movements to keep it from Snotlout’s other hand. She knew what he was planning, and her pride urged her to fight until the very end.

Snotlout hovered above her, his knees planted next to her hips and her left wrist trapped next to her. Blood dripped from his hurt nose onto her cheek, and she gasped as an idea struck her.

Without a pause, Bryn reached forward and shoved one finger into each of Snotlout’s nostrils. A look of surprise briefly passed over his face, quickly replaced by pain as she pushed. He cried out, releasing her left arm as he grabbed the hand in his nose and pulled it out. While he cupped his hurt nose, Bryn brought the stick still in her left hand up against his head. He tumbled over, and she wriggled out from under him.

The two shakily got to their feet, breathing hard and watching the other warily.

“Give up,” Bryn panted, pointing her remaining stick at him. “Just admit I won.”

He shook his head, wiping his hurt nose with his arm. “Don’t think so, babe,” he said, pointing at her. “You cheated.”

“I saw a weakness and took advantage of it,” she said, shaking her head. “Isn’t that what a warrior is supposed to do?”

Snotlout laughed, shaking his head. “You are not a warrior.”

She shrugged. “I won didn’t I?”

Snotlout chuckled again, then was on the move before Bryn could register it. He ran at her, head lowered. Her sore muscles and total shock prevented her from reacting quickly enough, and he hit her hard in the stomach with his shoulder. Then he straightened slightly, lifting her up into the air before slamming her to the ground with enough force to empty her lungs in one sudden rush.

She lay on her back, gasping, when he leaned over her. He blocked the sun, casting himself into little more than a silhouette.

“I win,” he said, breathing heavy.

He stood upright again, placed his hands against his lower back and stretched backward. Bryn could hear the cracks from her position, and he stepped to the right to flop down on the ground next to her.

The two laid there for a moment, breathing heavy and recuperating from the fight. A large shadow appeared over them as Gobber approached, and he leaned over Bryn.

“Now that,” he said with a smile. “Was a little less embarrassing. I think we’ve discovered your strength.”

Snotlout chuckled from his position to her right. “Yeah, shoving her fingers to people’s noses. That’ll come in really handy in battle.”

“Hey, I saw an opening and took it,” she said, examining the fingers in question. “No pun intended. And you may want to consider cleaning in there every now and then. Gross.” She reached over and wiped the offending muck onto his shirt as he laughed.

“Nevertheless,” Gobber said, drawing their attention once more. “I’ve seen enough. You’ve got promise. I can work with this.”

“No can do, Gobber,” she said, shaking her head. “The Snot and I had a deal. He won, so I have to quit.”

“Oh, please,” Snotlout said, pulling himself upright. “That was the best you’ve done since, well, EVER. You may have more potential than I thought.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Was that a . . . compliment?”

He shrugged. “I said MAY. There’s still a chance you’ll completely choke and be horribly, entertainingly bad again.”

“Oh, well, you wouldn’t want to miss that.”

“No. No I wouldn’t.”

“Well, you go and rest up, Bryn,” Gobber said as he walked away. “We’ll start your new phase of training first thing in the morning.”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. “I’ll be there, no sweat. I’m sure I won’t be sore or anything.”

The others filed out of the field after Gobber, and Fishlegs congratulated Bryn before leaving. Five minutes later, Bryn and Snotlout were the only ones left, and they sat in silence as the clouds passed overhead.

Snotlout cleared his throat. “So, uh,” he said, wiping his nose with the bottom of his shirt. “Do you want to get something to eat?”

Bryn was lying with her eyes closed, and when she didn’t answer for a minute, Snotlout thought she may have fallen asleep.

“Yeah,” she finally said, without opening her eyes. “But I don’t think I can move.”

Snotlout uttered an annoyed sigh. “You really need to work on your stamina,” he said, pulling himself into a standing position. Truth be told, he was a bit sore, too. But she didn’t need to know that.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll get right on that.”

The stocky Viking stretched his back again, and gave Bryn’s foot a nudge. “Hey, c’mon. Let’s go get some grub.”

She opened a single eye. “Don’t suppose you’d bring me something back.”

He shook his head. “Nope. Get up.”

“Just roll me there.”

“Oh for crying out loud,” he said, stepping over her so that either foot came to rest near her hips. He looked down at her, arms crossed. “Get up.”

“You know, I was already sore before you body slammed me,” she said, annoyed. “Give me a few minutes to rest.”

“You’re just going to get stiff and have an even harder time moving if you just lay there,” he said, leaning forward. “C’mon. Get up.”

Without giving her a chance to offer another excuse, he grabbed her wrists and pulled. She groaned in protest, but cooperated to return to a standing position. Her legs threatened to give out beneath her once she was upright, and she instinctively grabbed Snotlout to stay standing. He threw his arm around her to help keep her up, and held her tightly until her legs stopped shaking.

“Best thing you can do is keep moving,” he said as she pulled her back upright. “If you stop, you’re in trouble.”

He held her as they walked toward the village, his grip loosening as her legs became more steady.

“Thanks,” she said quietly as they released each other.

He shrugged.

“No problem.”

They walked in silence for a while, nearing the Great Hall. The breeze brought tasty smells to them—mutton, chicken, and potatoes.

“You did . . . uh,” Snotlout started as they climbed the hill toward the tall entrance doors of the Great Hall. “You did good up there.”

She shrugged. “Not good enough.”

“But better. Than you have been.”

“I guess.”

Snotlout approached the doors and pulled one open. “Not as good as me, though.”

“Best two out of three?” Bryn asked with a sly smile as she walked into the Hall.

Snotlout laughed as he walked in after her.

“You’re on.”


Thanks for reading!

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