Chapter 8 - The Brothers Lionheart Fairy tale by Astrid Lindgren

Jossi and none other!

It took me a moment or so to take it in. Jossi, the person who had been so kind and happy and red-cheeked and who had given me cakes and comforted me when I was sad---he was the traitor.

And here he was, sitting by the fire, only a short way away from me, together with those Tengilmen---Veder and Kader, he called them---explaining why he hadn’t come earlier.

“Hubert’s out hunting wolves in the mountains, and I had to keep out of sight.”

Veder and Kader looked sullen, and Jossi went on.

“Surely you haven't forgotten Hubert? You ought to have him in Katla Cavern too, because he also hates Tengil.”

“Then I think you should do something about it,” said Veder.

“For you’re our man in Cherry Valley, aren’t you? said Kader.

“Of course, of course,” said Jossi.

He fawned and cringed, but Veder and Kader didn’t like him; I could see that. I suppose no one likes a traitor, even if he has his uses.

But he was allowed to keep his ears; they didn’t cut them off. But they did something else; they put the Katla mark on him.

“All Tengil’s men have to carry the Katla mark, even a traitor like you,” said Veder. “So that you can show them who you are, if any spies who don’t know you come to Cherry Valley.”

“Of course, of course,” said Jossi.

They ordered him to open his jacket and shirt and with a branding iron that they heated in the fire, they burned the Katla mark on to his chest.

Jossi cried out when he was touched by the glowing iron.

“Feel that!” said Kader. “Now you know that for eternity you’re one of us, traitor that you are.”

Of all the nights in my life, this must have been the longest and hardest, at least since I had come to Nangiyala, and almost the worst of it was having to lie there and listen to Jossi bragging about what he had planned for the destruction of Cherry Valley.

He would soon be able to snare Sofia and Hubert, he said, both of them.

“But that must happen so no one realizes who lies behind it. Otherwise how could I continue to be your secret Tengilman in Cherry Valley?”

You won’t be secret all that much longer, I thought. For here’s one person who will expose you, so that you’ll turn pale, you red-cheeked wretch, you!

But then he said something else, something that made my heart lurch.

“Have you caught Jonathan Lionheart, yet? Or is he still free in Wild Rose Valley?”

Veder and Kader didn’t like the question, I could see. “We’re on his tracks,” said Veder. “A hundred men are searching for him day and night.”

“And we’ll find him even if we have to search every single house in Wild Rose Valley,” said Kader. “Tengil is waiting for him.”

“I can understand that,” said Jossi. “Young Lionheart is more dangerous than anyone else, I’ve told you that. For he is truly a lion.”

I felt proud as I lay there that Jonathan was such a lion, and what a comfort it was to know that he was alive. But I wept with rage when I realized what Jossi had done. He had betrayed Jonathan. Only Jossi could have found out about Jonathan's secret journey to Wild Rose Valley and sent a message about it to Tengil. It was Jossi’s fault that a hundred men were now searching day and night for my brother and would hand him over to Tengil if they found him.

But he was alive, all the same; he was alive! And he was free too, so why had he called out in my dream? I wondered as I lay there, whether I would ever know.

But I learned a lot of other things by lying there listening to Jossi.

“That Hubert, he’s envious of Sofia because we’ve chosen her as our leader in Cherry Valley,” said Jossi. “Because Hubert thinks he’s best at everything.”

Oh, that was why! I remembered how angry Hubert had sounded that time when he had asked, “What’s so special about Sofia?” So it was because he was envious, not for any other reason. You can be envious and still be a good man at the same time. But I had gotten it into my head from the start that Hubert was Cherry Valley’s traitor, and everything he had done and said since, I had managed to fit in with that. It was so easy to imagine things wrongly about people. Poor Hubert had watched over me and saved my life and given my smoked meat as well, and in thanks I had only shouted at him: “Don’t kill me!” No wonder he was furious. Forgive me, Hubert, I thought, forgive me; I would say that to him if I ever met him again.

Jossi was more assured now, apparently quite pleased as he sat there, but I think the Katla mark stung him sometimes, because he groaned a little every time, and Kader said, “Feel that, feel that!”

I wished I could have seen what the Katla mark looked like, though it was probably horrible, I imagine, so perhaps it was just as well I didn’t see it.

Jossi went on bragging about everything he had done and everything he was going to do, and suddenly he said:

“Lionheart has a little brother, whom he loves above all else.”

I wept silently and longed for Jonathan.

“We could use the poor little devil as a bait to get Sofia on the hook,” said Jossi.

“You numbskull, why didn’t you tell us that before?” said Kader. “We could use the brother, if we had him, to force Lionheart out of his hiding place. For wherever he is hiding, he would certainly find out in some secret way that we had captured his brother.”

“And that’d bring him out,” said Veder. “ ‘Free my brother and take me instead,’ he’d be bound to say then, if he really cares about his brother and wants to protect him from all evil.”

I was so afraid now that I couldn’t even cry any more, but Jossi puffed himself out and boasted:

“I’ll arrange that when I get back home,” he said. “I can lure little Kalle Lionheart into an ambush. That won’t be difficult. I can do that with a few cakes. And then we can deceive Sofia into trying to save him.”

“Isn’t Sofia too clever for you?” said Kader. “Do you think you could deceive her?”

“Oh, yes, yes indeed,” said Jossi. “and she won’t even know who is doing it. She trusts me.”

Now he was so pleased with himself that he chuckled.

“Then you’ll have both her and little Lionheart. How many horses will Tengil give me for that when he marches into Cherry Valley?”

That’ll be something to see, I thought. Oh, Jossi so you’re going home to lure Kalle Lionheart into an ambush, are you? But if he’s no longer in Cherry Valley, what will you do then?

In the middle of all this wretchedness, I was cheered by the thought of how crestfallen Jossi would be when he found out that I had disappeared.

But then Jossi said:

“Little Kalle Lionheart, he’s nice, but he’s certainly no lion. There’s no more easily scared little weakling. Hareheart would be a better name for him.”

Yes, I knew myself that I could never be at all brave and that I shouldn’t be called Lionheart like Jonathan. But all the same, it was terrible to heat Jossi say it. I felt ashamed as I lay there, and I thought that I must, must, try to be a little braver, but not just now when I was so afraid.

Jossi at last stopped. He had no more scoundrelly things to boast about, so he got up.

“I must be home before daybreak,” he said.

They went on exhorting him until the last moment.

“Make sure you do something about Sofia and that little brother,” said Veder.

“Rely on me,” said Jossi. “But you mustn’t do the boy any harm. Because I care for him a little.”

Thank you, I’ve noticed that, I thought.

“And then don’t forget the password if you bring news into Wild Rose Valley,” said Kader. “If you want to be let in alive!”

“All power to Tengil, our liberator,” said Jossi. “No, I remember that day and night. And Tengil, he won’t forget his promise to me, will he?”

He had already mounted, ready to leave.

“Jossi, Chieftain of Cherry Valley,” he said. “Tengil promised me that I would be that; he won’t forget, will he?”

“Tengil forgets nothing,” said Kader.

And then Jossi rose away, disappearing the same way he had come, and Veder and Kader sat there watching him go.

“That man,” said Veder. “He’ll go to Katla when we’ve finished with Cherry Valley.”

He said it so that you knew what it meant to fall into Katla’s power. I knew so little about Katla, but I shuddered and almost felt sorry for Jossi, although he was such a wretch.

The fire in the glade had burned low and I began to hope that Veder and Kader would also go away. I wanted it so much that I ached to see them disappear. Like a rat in a trap, I longed to be free. If only I could get their horses out of the cave before someone came in to fetch them, then perhaps I would manage, I thought, and Veder and Kader would ride away without knowing how easily they could have captured Jonathan Lionheart’s little brother.

But then I head Kader say:

“Let’s go and sleep in the cave for a while.”

Oh, so the end has come, I thought. Well, just as well, for I cannot go on. Let them take me; by all means put an end to it all.

But then Veder said:

“Why sleep? It’ll soon be morning and I’ve had enough of these mountains. I want to go back to Wild Rose Valley now.”

So Kader gave in.

“As you like,” he said. “Get the horses out.”

Sometimes, when things are really dangerous, it’s as if you saved yourself without thinking. I threw myself backwards and scrambled into the darkest corner of the cave, just as a little animal might have done. I saw Veder come in through the entrance, but the next moment he was in the pitch-black darkness of the cave and I could see him no longer, only hear him, and that was bad enough. He couldn’t see me either, but he ought to have been able to hear my heart. How it thumped as I lay there, waiting for what was to come, when Veder found three horses instead of two.

They whinnied a little when Veder came in. All three, Fyalar too. I would be able to recognize Fyalar’s whinny among a thousand others. But Veder, the fool, heard no difference; just imagine, he never even noticed that there were three horses in the cave. He drove out the two nearest to the entrance---their own two---and went after them himself.

As soon as I was alone with Fyalar, I rushed over and put my hand on his nose. Dear, sweet Fyalar, keep quiet, I prayed inwardly, for I knew that if he whinnied now, they would hear out there and realize something was wrong. And Fyalar, he was so clever he understood everything. The other horses whinnied outside, as if they wished to say farewell to him. But Fyalar stood quietly and did not answer.

I saw Veder and Kader mount, and I cannot describe what a wonderful feelings it was. At last I would be free now and out of the rat trap I thought.

Then Veder said:

“I’ve forgotten my tinderbox.”

And he jumped down from his horse and began to search around the fire.

Then he said:

“It isn’t here. Perhaps I dropped it in the cave.”

That was how the rat trap closed on me again with a crash, and I was caught. Veder came into the cave to look for that wretched tinderbox and he walked straight into Fyalar.

I know that one shouldn’t lie, but if it’s a matter of life and death, you have to.

He had hard hands, too, Veder had; no one has ever held me so roughly before. It hurt and I was angry, almost more angry than afraid, strangely enough. Perhaps that’s why I lied so well.

“How long have you been lying here spying?” bawled Veder as he dragged me out of the cave.

“Since last night,” I said. “But I was only sleeping,” I said, blinking in the morning light as if I’d just woken up.

“Sleeping,” said Veder. “Are you trying to tell me that you never heard us bellowing and singing out here by the fire? Don’t lie now.”

He thought that he was being very cunning, for they hadn’t sung a single note. But I was even more cunning.

“Well, perhaps I heard a little when you were singing,” I stammered, as if I were lying to please him.

Then Veder and Kader looked at each other; now they knew for certain that’d I been asleep and hadn’t heard a thing.

But that didn’t help all that much.

“Don’t you know it’s the death penalty for traveling this way?” said Veder.

I tried to look as if I didn’t know anything about anything: not a thing about the death penalty or anything else.

“I only wanted to see the moonlight last night,” I mumbled.

“And you risked your life for that, you little fox?” said Vader. “Where do you live, in Cherry Valley or in Wild Rose Valley?”

“In Wild Rose Valley,” I said.

Because Karl Lionheart lived in Cherry Valley and I would rather die than tell them who I was.

“Who are your parents?” asked Veder.

“I live with...with my grandfather,” I said.

“What’s his name?” said Veder.

“I just call him Grandfather,” I said, making myself out to be even stupider.

“Where does he live in Wild Rose Valley?” said Veder.

“In a ...little white house,” I said, for I thought that the houses in Wild Rose Valley would probably be white, as they are in Cherry Valley.

“You can show us that grandfather and that white house,” said Veder. “Up on that horse with you.”

So we rose away and just then the sun rose behind Nangiyala’s mountains. The sky was ablaze with burning fire and the mountain peaks were shining. I have never in my whole life seen anything more beautiful, anything more colossal, and if I hadn’t had Kader and the black rump of his horse straight in front of me, I would have been jubilant. But I wasn’t, no, indeed I wasn’t.

The path continued to twist and turn just as before, but soon it ran steeply downhill and I realized that we were approaching Wild Rose Valley. Yet I could scarcely believe it when I suddenly saw it right below me; oh, it was as beautiful as Cherry Valley, lying there in the morning light with all its small houses and farms and its green slopes and flowering wild-rose thickets; whole drifts of wild roses, there were. It looked so odd from above, almost like a sea with pink foam on the green waves; yes, Wild Rose Valley was the right name for such a valley.

But I would never have gotten into that valley without Veder and Kader, for there was a high wall, which Tengil had forced the people to build because hw wanted them as bondsmen, imprisoned for ever. Jonathan had told me that, so I knew.

Veder and Kader must have forgotten to ask me how I had managed to get out of the closed valley, and I prayed to God that they would never remember to either. For what could I answer? How could anyone get over that wall---and with a horse as well?

Tengilmen in black helmets and with swords and spears were on guard on the top of the wall as far as I could see, and the gateway was just as well guarded; there was a gateway in the wall just where the path from Cherry Valley came to an end.

Here people had traveled freely between the valleys for centuries and now there was nothing but a closed gate and you had to be a Tengilman to get through.

Veder thundered on the gate with his sword. Then a little shutter opened and a giantlike man stuck his head out.

“Password!” he cried.

Veder and Kader whispered the secret passwords into his ear, no doubt so that I shouldn’t hear. But that was unnecessary, because I knew the words too---”All power to Tengil, our liberator.”

The man behind the shutter looked at me and said:

“And him? Who’s he?”

“It’s a little oaf we found up in the mountains,” said Kader. “But he can’t be all that stupid, because he somehow managed to get through your gate last night,---what do you say to that, Senior Guard? I think you should ask your men how they keep guard in the evenings.”

The man behind the shutter grew angry. He opened the gate, but he scolded and swore and was reluctant to let me in, only Veder and Kader.

“Put him in Katla Cavern,” he said. “He belongs there.”

But Veder and Kader were stubborn---I must be allowed in, they said, because I must prove that I hadn’t lied to them. It was their duty to Tengil to find that out, they said.

And with Veder and Kader as escorts, I rode through the gate.

I thought then that if I ever saw Jonathan again, I would tell him how Veder and Kader had helped me into Wild Rose Valley. he would laugh about that for a long time.

But I was not laughing, because I knew how bad things were for me. I had to find a white house with a grandfather in it; otherwise I would end up in Katla Cavern.

“Ride on ahead and show us the way,” said Veder. “For we must speak seriously to your grandfather.”

There were plenty of white houses, just like at home in Cherry Valley, but I didn’t see one that I could point out, because I didn't know who lived in them. I didn’t dare say “Grandfather lives there,” for suppose Veder and Kader went in and there was not even one little old man there, not one who wanted to be grandfather to me.

Now I was truly in a mess and I sweated as I rose along. It had been so easy to invent a grandfather, but now I no longer thought it such a good idea.

I saw people working outside their houses, but nowhere anyone who resembled a grandfather, and I began to feel more and more miserable. It was terrible, too, to see how things were with the people in Wild Rose Valley, how pale and hungry and unhappy they all were, at leas those I saw as I rode along, so unlike the people of Cherry Valley. But then we had no Tengil in our valley, who enslaved us and took from us everything we had to live on.

I rode and rode, and Veder and Kader began to get impatient, but I just rode on as if I were on my way to the end of the world.

“Is it much farther?” said Veder.

“No, not far,” I said, but I didn’t know what I was saying or doing. Now I was terrified, just waiting to be thrown into Katla Cavern.

But then a miracle happened. Believe it or not, outside a little white house an old man was sitting on a bench just by the wall, feeding his pigeons. Perhaps I would never have dared to do it if there hadn’t been one snow-white pigeon in among all those gray ones. Just one!

Tears came into my eyes; I had seen pigeons like that only at Sofia’s and then once on my windowsill long ago, in another world.

Then I did an unheard-of-thing. I jumped down from Fyalar and in two leaps; I was with the old man. I threw myself into his arms and with my arms around his neck, I whispered in my despair:

“Help me! Save me! Say that you are my grandfather!”

I was frightened and sure that he would push me away when he saw Veder and Kader in their black helmets behind me. Why should he lie for my sake and perhaps end up in Katla Cavern because of it?

But he didn’t push me away. He held me tight and I felt his good, kind, arms around me like a protection against all evil.

“Little lad,” he said, so loudly that Veder and Kader could hear him. “Where have you been all this time? And what have you done, unhappy child, to return home with soldiers?”

My poor grandfather, what a scolding he got from Veder and Kader! They scolded and scolded and said that if he didn’t keep his grandchildren in better order, but let them roam about in Nangiyala’s mountains, then soon he would have no grandchildren, and he would never forget it. But they would let it go for this time, they said at last, and then they rose away. Their helmets could soon be seen as nothing but small black dots on the hillside below us.

Then I began to cry. I was still in my grandfather’s arms and I just cried and cried, for the night had been so long and hard and now at last it was over. And my grandfather, he let me, just rocking me a little, and I wished, oh, how I wished he could be my real grandfather. I tried to tell him that although I was crying.

“Well, I can probably be your grandfather,” he said. “But otherwise my name is Mathias. What’s yours?”

“Karl Lio---” I began. But then I stopped. How could I be so foolish as to say that name here in Wild Rose Valley.

“Grandfather dear, my name is a secret,” I said. “Call me Rusky.”

“Oh, Rusky is it?” said Mathias, laughing a little. “Go on into the kitchen, Rusky, and wait for me there,” he went on. “I’ll just put your horse in the stable.”

I went in, into a poor little kitchen with nothing but a table and a wooden sofa and a few chair and a hearth. There was also a big sideboard along one wall.

Mathias soon came back, and then I said:

“We’ve got a big sideboard like that in our kitchen, too, at home in Cher---”

Then I stopped.

“At home in Cherry Valley,” said Mathias, and I looked anxiously at him---once again I had said what mustn’t be said.

But Mathias said nothing else. He went over to the window and looked out, standing there for a long time, looking about as if he wanted to be sure that there was no one around. Then he turned to me and said in a low voice:

“Though there’s something special about that sideboard. Wait a minute, and you’ll see.”

He put his shoulder against the sideboard and pushed it aside. Behind it was a shutter in the wall. He opened it and inside there was a room, a very small room. Someone was lying asleep on the floor.

It was Jonathan.