Chapter 11 - The Brothers Lionheart Fairy tale by Astrid Lindgren

Tengil’s soldiers were all revived by so much meat and beer, and every one of them must have wanted those twenty white horses, for they started frantically searching for Jonathan. They foraged about from morning to night, searching every house and every corner in the valley. Jonathan had to stay in his hideout until he was almost suffocated.

Veder and Kader rode around everywhere, reading out the proclamation about my brother. I, too, took the opportunity of hearing about “Tengil’s enemy, Jonathan Lionheart, who had illegally surmounted the wall and whose whereabouts in Wild Rose Valley were still unknown.” They described him, too: “A remarkably handsome youth, with fair hair, dark blue eyes, and slim of figure,” they said, and that was how Jossi had described him, I’m sure. And again I heard about the death penalty for sheltering Lionheart and the reward for the person who betrayed him.

While Veder and Kader were riding around trumpeting all this, people were coming to Mathias’s house to say farewell to Jonathan, and to thank him for everything he had done for them, which was probably a lot more than I knew about.

“We’ll never forget you,” they said with tears in their eyes, and they brought bread with them and gave it to him, although they had hardly anything to eat themselves.

“You’ll need it, because it’s a difficult and dangerous journey you’re undertaking,” they said, and then they hurried away to listen to Veder and Kader once again, just for the fun of it.

Soldiers came to Mathias’s house too. I was sitting terrified on a chair in the kitchen as they came in, not daring to movie, but Mathias was bold.

“What are you looking for?” he said. “I don’t believe that Lionheart youth even exists. It’s something you’ve invented so that you can go around messing up people’s houses.”

They certainly messed up the place. They began in the little bedroom, where they tipped all the bedclothes onto the floor. Then they rummaged through a cupboard in there, throwing out everything that was inside it, which was fairly silly. Did they really think Jonathan was hiding in a cupboard?

“Aren’t you going to look inside the pot cupboard too?” asked Mathias. But that made them angry.

Then they came out into the kitchen and set about the sideboard, and I sat on my chair feeling the hatred riding up inside me. It was that evening that we were going to leave the valley, Jonathan and I, and I thought that if they found him now, I wouldn’t know what I’d do. Things couldn’t be so cruel that they caught Jonathan during his last hours in the valley.

Mathias had stuffed the sideboard full of old clothes, sheep’s wool and things, to muffle any sound from the hideout, and they hauled the whole lot out on to the kitchen floor.

And then! Then I wanted to scream so that the house fell down; yes, because one of them put his shoulder against the sideboard to push it to one side. But no sound came out of me. I sat paralyzed on my chair and just hated him, everything about him, his rough hands and thick neck and that wart on his forehead. I hated him because I knew he was now going to see the shutter leading into the hideout, and that would be the end of Jonathan.

But a cry came from Mathias:

“Look! Fire!” he shouted. “Has Tengil ordered you to set fire to our houses too?”

I don’t know how it had happened, but it was true. The sheep’s wool on the floor was burning briskly, and the soldiers had to hurry to put it out. They jumped and stamped and cursed and swore, and finally they tipped the water-barrel over it all, so the fire was out almost before it had started. But Mathias grumbled all the same and was angry with them.

“Have you no sense at all?” he said. “You can’t throw wool down like that right next to a fire, where there are flames and sparks!”

The soldier with the wart was furious.

“Shut up, old man!” he said. “Or I know several ways of shutting that mouth of yours.”

But Mathias would not let them frighten him.

“I hope you’re going to clean up after you,” he said. “Just look what you’ve done! The place looks like a pigsty.”

That was the right way to get them to go away.

“Clean up your own pigsty, old man,” said the man with the wart, and he went out first, the others following, leaving the door wide open behind them.

“They’ve got no sense at all,” said Mathias.

“What luck the fire started though,” I said. “What luck for Jonathan.”

Mathias blew on his fingertips.

“Yes, small fires are quite good things sometimes,” he said. “Though you get burned when you scrape red-hot charcoal out of the fire with your fingers.”

But that wasn’t the end of our miseries, whatever I’d thought.

They searched the stable for Jonathan, too, and then the soldier with the wart came to Mathias and said:

“You’ve got two horses, old man! No one in Wild Rose Valley is allowed more than one, you know that. We’ll send a man over from the other side tonight. He’ll fetch the one with a white blaze, you’ll have to give that one to Tengil.”

“But it’s the boy’s horse,” said Mathias.

“Oh, yes?” But it’s Tengil’s now.”

That’s what the soldier said, and I began to cry. We had to leave Wild Rose Valley that evening, Jonathan and I. Our long underground passage was finished. Not until that moment had I even thought about it---how on earth were we going to take Grim and Fyalar with us? They couldn’t crawl along an underground passage. What a fool I was not to have thought about that before, that we’d have to leave our horses with Mathias. That was bad enough, but why should things turn out even worse? Tengil would take Fyalar; I can’t understand why my heart didn’t break when I heard that.

The soldier with the wart hauled a little wooden tag out of his pocket and held it under Mathias’s nose.

“Here,” he said. “Write your house mark on this.”

“Why should I do that?” said Mathias.

“That means it’ll be a pleasure for you to give a horse to Tengil.”

“I feel no such pleasure.”

But then the soldier drew his sword.

“You certainly do,” he said. “You feel great pleasure and this is where you put your house mark. And then you give the tag to the man who comes over from Karmanyaka to fetch the horse, because Tengil wants proof that you’ve given it voluntarily, do you see, old man?” he said, pushing Mathias so that he almost fell over.

What else could Mathias do? He wrote down his house mark, and the soldiers went off to search elsewhere for Jonathan.

It was our last evening with Mathias. For the last time we sat down at his table, and for the last time he offered us soup. We were sad, all three of us, I most of all. I cried. Because of Fyalar. Because of Mathias. He had almost been my grandfather, and now I was going to leave him. I wept, too, because I was small and scared and could do nothing about soldiers coming like that and pushing my grandfather around.

Jonathan was sitting in silence, thinking, and suddenly he mumbled:

“If only I knew the password.”

“What password?” I said.

“You have to say the password when you go in or out through the main gateway, didn’t you know that?” he said.

“Yes, I know that,” I said. “And I know what the password is, too. ‘All power to Tengil, our liberator.’ I heard Jossi say it. Didn’t I tell you?”

Jonathan stared at me; for a long while he just stared at me, and then he began to laugh.

“Rusky, I do like you,” he said. “Did you know that?”

I didn’t understand why he was so pleased about the password, because he wasn’t going through the gateway anyhow, but I was also a little pleased in all my misery because I had been able to cheer him up with such a small matter.

Mathias had gone into the bedroom to clear up and Jonathan rushed in after him. They talked in low voices to each other in there, but I didn’t hear much, except when Jonathan said:

“If I fail, then you’ll look after my brother, won’t you?”

Then he came back in to me.

“Listen now, Rusky,” he said. “I’ll take the pack and go on ahead, and you must wait here with Mathias, until you hear from me again. It’ll take quite a while, because I’ve got a few things to arrange first.”

Oh, how I disliked that. I’ve never been able to stand waiting for Jonathan, especially when I’m afraid all the time, and I was afraid now, for who knows what might happen to Jonathan on the other side of the wall, and what was he thinking of doing that might fail?

“You mustn’t be so frightened,” said Jonathan. “You’re Karl Lionheart these days. Don’t forget that.”

Then he bade Mathias and me a hasty farewell, crawled into the hideout, and I saw him vanish down into the underground passage. He waved; the last thing I saw was his hand waving to us.

And then we were left alone, Mathias and I.

“Fatty Dodik doesn’t know what kind of mole is burrowing under his wall at this moment,” said Mathias.

“No, but suppose he sees that mole sticking its head up through the earth,” I said. “And then throws his spear!”

I was sad, and I crept out to the stable to Fyalar, for the last time seeking comfort from him. But he couldn’t comfort me, for I knew that after this evening, I would never see him again.

It was dim in the stable, the window small, letting in very little light, but I saw how eagerly Fyalar turned his head as I came in through the door. I went over to the stall and threw my arms around his neck. I wanted him to understand that what had to happen wasn’t my fault.

“Though perhaps it is my fault,” I said, and I wept. “If I’d stayed in Cherry Valley, then Tengil would never have gotten hold of you. Forgive me, Fyalar, forgive me. But I couldn’t do anything else.”

I think he knew I was sad. He nuzzled my ear with his soft nose as if he didn’t want me to cry.

But I cried. I stood there with him and I cried and cried, until there were no more tears inside me. then I groomed him and gave him the last of the oats; well, he shared them with Grim, of course.

I thought such terrible thoughts as I groomed Fyalar.

May he drop dead, the man who was to come and fetch my horse, I thought. May he die before he gets across the river. It was terrible to wish things like that, it really was, and it didn’t help, either.

No, he was almost certainly already on board the ferry. I thought, the ferry they carry all their stolen goods away on. Perhaps he had already landed? Perhaps he was just coming through the gateway and would be here any minute now. Oh, Fyalar, if only we could flee together, you and I.

Just as I was thinking like that, someone opened the stable door and I cried out, I was so frightened. But it was only Mathias. He had begun to wonder what I was doing. I was glad the light was dim in the stable, so that he couldn’t see that I had been crying again. But he probably realized that I had, all the same, for he said:

“Little lad, if only I could do something. But no grandfather can help with this. So just cry.”

Then I saw through the window behind him that someone was out there, coming toward Mathias’s place. A Tengilman! The one who was coming to fetch Fyalar!

“He’s coming!” I said. “Mathias, he’s coming!”

Fyalar whinnied, upset when I cried out so despairingly.

The next moment, the stable door was jerked open, and he was standing there in his black helmet and black cloak.

“No!” I cried. “No, no!”

But then he was already by me, and he threw his arms around me.

Jonathan did, for it was him!

“Don’t you recognize your own brother?” he said as I struggled against him. he pulled me over to the window so that I could see him properly, and yet I could hardly believe it was Jonathan. He was unrecognizable. Because he was ugly. Uglier than me, even, and certainly not a “remarkably handsome youth.” His hair was hanging down in wet strips and wasn’t shining like gold, and he had stuffed a peculiar limp of snuff under his upper lip. I didn’t know anyone could become so ugly with so little. He looked funny. I would have laughed if there had been time, but Jonathan clearly had no time for anything.

“Quick, quick!” he said. “I must leave at once. The man from Karmanyaka will be here any minute.”

He held out his hand toward Mathias.

“Give me the tag,” he said. “For I’m sure you’ll give both your horses to Tengil with great pleasure, won’t you?”

“Yes, what do you think?” said Mathias, pressing the tag into his hand.

Jonathan put it into his pocket.

“I have to show that at the gateway, “ he said. “Then the Senior Guard will know I’m not lying.”

It all happened so quickly. We saddled the horses faster than ever before, while Jonathan told us how he had got in through the great gateway, because Mathias wanted to know.

“It was simple,” said Jonathan. “I gave the password that Rusky had taught me---’All power to Tengil, our liberator’---and then the Senior Guard said: ‘Where have you come from, where are you going, and what is your errand?’ ‘From Karmanyaka to Mathias’s Farm to fetch two horses for Tengil,’ I said. ‘Pass, then,’ he said. ‘Thank you,’ I said. And here I am. But I must get back through the gate before the next Tengilman comes and wants to get in; otherwise things will be difficult.”

We got the horses out of the stable faster than I can say, and Jonathan swung himself up onto Grim’s saddle, holding Fyalar by the reins beside him.

“Look after yourself, Mathias,” he said. “Until we meet again.”

Then he trotted away with the two horses, just like that.”

“But what about me?” I shouted. “What shall I do?”

Jonathan waved to me.”

“Mathias will tell you,” he called.

And there I stood, staring after him, feeling stupid. But Mathias explained.

“You must see that you couldn’t get through the gateway,” he said. “You’ll have to crawl along the passage as soon as it’s dark. Then Jonathan will be on the other side waiting for you.”

“Are you certain?” I said. “Something might happen to him at the last minute.”

Mathias sighed.

“Nothing’s certain in a world where there’s Tengil,” he said. “But if it goes wrong, then you’ll have to come back and stay with me.”

I tried to think what it would be like: first crawling along the passage all by myself---that alone was horrible---and then coming out into the forest on the other side of the wall, waiting and waiting, and at last realizing that it had all gone wrong. Then crawling back again, and living without Jonathan!

We were standing outside the now empty stable and suddenly I thought of something else, too.

“What’ll happen to you, Mathias, when he comes, that man from Karmanyaka, and there’s no horse in the stable?”

“Yes, there’s be a horse, there,” said Mathias. “Because I’m just off to fetch my own. I’ve been keeping it at the neighboring farm while Grim has been in my stable.”

“But then he’ll take your horse instead,” I said.

“Just let him try!” said Mathias.

Mathias fetched his own horse back just in time, for soon afterward, the man who had come to fetch Fyalar did appear. At first he shouted and raged and scolded like all other Tengilmen because there was only one horse in the stable and because Mathias wouldn’t hand it over.

“Don’t try that one on me,” said Mathias. “We’re allowed one horse, you know that. And you’ve already taken away the other one and had my house mark for it. I can’t help it if you’ve made a muddle of everything, so that one fathead doesn’t know what the other one is doing.”

Some Tengilmen became angry when Mathias turned haughty on them like that, but some became humble and meek. The man who was come to fetch Fyalar gave in at once.

“There must have been some mistake,” he said and slouched off toward the path like a dog with its tail between its legs.

“Mathias, are you never afraid?” I asked when he was out of sight.

“Yes, of course, I’m afraid,” said Mathias. “Feel my hear thumping,” he went on, taking my hand and laying it on his chest. “We’re all afraid,” he said. “But sometimes you mustn’t let it show.”

Then the evening came, and darkness, so it was time for me to leave Wild Rose Valley and Mathias.

“Good-by, little lad,” said Mathias. “Don’t forget your grandfather.”

“No, never,” I said. “I’ll never forget you!”

Then I was alone in the underground passage. I crawled along the long dark tunnel and I talked to myself all the way to keep myself calm and not to be too frightened.

“No, it doesn’t matter at all that it’s pitch, of course you won’t suffocate...yes, a little earth is running down your neck, but that doesn’t mean that the whole passage is going to collapse, you stupid thing! No, no, Dodik can’t see you when you come up; he’s not a cat that can see in the dark, is he? Yes, of course Jonathan’s there waiting for you; he is there, do you hear what I’m saying? He is. He is!”

And he was. He was sitting there on a stone in the dark, and a little way from him Grim and Fyalar were standing under a tree.

“Well, Karl Lionheart,” he said. “Here you are at last.”