Chapter 15 - The Brothers Lionheart Fairy tale by Astrid Lindgren

The day of the battle, the day everyone had been waiting for, came at last. There was a storm over Wild Rose Valley that day, so that trees were bent over and broken. But it wasn’t that kind of storm Orvar had meant when he had said:

“The storm of liberation will come, and it will break the oppressors, as when a tree breaks and falls. It will go forward with a roar, sweeping away our slavery and finally freeing us again!”

He had spoken like that in Mathias’s kitchen, to which people had come in secret to hear him and see him; yes, they wanted to see him and Jonathan.

“You two, you are our comfort and our hope, you are all we have,” they said when they came creeping to Mathias’s house in the evenings, although they knew how dangerous it was.

“Because they want to hear about the storm of liberation just as children want to hear sagas,” said Mathias.

The day of the battle was the only thing they thought about or longed for now. This was not all that strange, for after Orvar’s escape, Tengil had grown crueller than ever, every day finding new ways of tormenting and punishing Wild Rose Valley, which was why they hated him even more passionately than before and why even more weapons were being forged in the valley.

From Cherry Valley, more and more freedom fighters came to help. Sofia and Hubert had an army camp in the deepest depths of the forest, near Elfrida. Sofia sometimes came through the underground passage at night, and in Mathias’s kitchen they made their battle plans, she and Orvar and Jonathan.

I lay there, listening to them, as I was sleeping on the sofa-bed in the kitchen, now that Orvar needed a place in the hideout. Every time Sofia came, she said:

“Here’s my savior! I didn’t forget to thank you, did I, Karl?”

Then Orvar said each time that I was the hero of Wild Rose Valley, but I could only think about Jossi out in the dark waters and feel sad.

Sofia also arranged for a supply of bread for Wild Rose Valley. It was brought over the mountains from Cherry Valley in wagons and was smuggled through the underground passage. Mathias went around with a pack on his back and in secret, shared it among the houses. I hadn’t known before that people could be made so happy with nothing but a little bit of bread. Now I saw it, because I went with Mathias on his walks, and I saw how the people in the valley were suffering and I heard them talk about the battle they were longing for so much.

I was frightened of that day, and yet I almost began to long for it in the end, I too, for it was unbearable to go on waiting, and dangerous, Jonathan said.

“You can’t keep so much so secret for so long,” he said to Orvar. “Our dream of liberation could be crushed so easily.”

He was certainly right in that. It needed only one Tengilman to find that underground passage, or a renewed search of houses, for Jonathan and Orvar to be discovered in the hideout. I shuddered at the very thought of it.

But the Tengilmen must have been both blind and deaf, or they would surely have noticed something. If they had listened just a little, they would have been able to hear how that storm of liberation was beginning to rumble, the storm that was soon going to shake the whole of Wild Rose Valley. But they didn’t.

The night before the day of the battle, I was lying in my sofa-bed, unable to sleep because of the storm outside, and because of my own anxiety. It had been decided hat the battle would start at dawn the next morning. Orvar and Jonathan and Mathias were sitting at the table talking about it, and I was lying there listening. Orvar spoke the most; he talked and talked, his eyes glowing. he was longing for the morning more than anyone else.

This was how it was to go, as far as I could make out from their talk. the guards at the main gateway and the river gateway were to be struck down first, so that the gates could be opened for Sofia and Hubert, who would then ride in with their forces, Sofia through the main gateway, Hubert through the river gateway.

“And then we must be victorious together, or die,” said Orvar.

It must go quickly, he said. The valley must be freed of all Tengilmen and the gateways close again before Tengil had time to bring Katla, for there were no weapons against Katla. She could not be defeated in any other way except starvation, Orvar said.

“Neither spears nor arrows nor swords affect her,” he said. “And one tiny lick of her fire is enough to paralyze or kill anyone.”

“But if Tengil has Katla over there in his mountains, what’s the use of liberating Wild Rose Valley?” I said. “With her, he can suppress you again, just as he did the first time.”

“He has given us a wall to protect us, don’t forget that,” said Orvar. “And the gateways that can be shut against monsters. Kind man that he is.”

I need no longer worry about Tengil, Orvar said, for in the evening he and Jonathan, Sofia and some others were to penetrate into Tengil’s castle, overwhelm his guard and finish him off there, before he was even aware of the rebellion in the valley. Then Katla would be chained up in her cave until she grew so weak and starved that they could kill her.

“There’s no other way of getting rid of such a monster,” said Orvar.

Then he again spoke of how swiftly they must rid the valley of all Tengilmen, and Jonathan said:

“Rid? You mean kill?”

“Yes, what else would I mean?” said Orvar.

“But I can’t kill anyone,” said Jonathan. “You know that, Orvar.”

“Not even if it’s a question of your own life?” said Orvar.

“No, not even then,” said Jonathan.

Orvar couldn’t understand that, and neither could Mathias.

“If everyone were like you,” said Orvar, “then evil would reign forever.”

But then I said that if everyone were like Jonathan, there wouldn’t be any evil.

Then I didn’t say anything else, for the rest of the evening, except when Mathias came and tucked me in. Then I whispered to him:

“I’m frightened, Mathias.”

Mathias patted me and said:

“So am I.”

All the same Jonathan had to promise Orvar that he would ride around in the confusion of the battle to give other people the courage to do what he himself could not or would not do.

“The people of Wild Rose Valley must see you,” said Orvar. “They must see both of us.”

Then Jonathan said:

“Well, if I must, I must.”

But I saw how pale he was in the light of the one little candle in the kitchen.

We had to leave Grim and Fyalar in the forest with Elfrida, when we had come back from Katla Cavern. But it had been decided that Sofia was to bring them with her when she rode through the main gate on the day of the battle.

What I was to do had also been decided. I was to do nothing, only wait until it was all over. Jonathan had said that. I was to sit all alone at home in the kitchen and wait.

No one slept much that night.

Then the morning came.

Yes, then the morning came and, with it, the day of the battle. Oh, how sick at heart I was that day! I saw and heard more than enough of blood and cries, for they were fighting on the slopes below Mathias’s house. I saw Jonathan riding around, the storm tearing at his hair, and all about him nothing but fighting and flashing swords and whistling spears and flying arrows and cries and cries; and I said to Fyalar, if Jonathan dies, then I want to die too.

Yes, Fyalar was with me in the kitchen. I had thought of not telling anyone about it, but I had to have him there. I couldn’t be alone, I just couldn’t. Fyalar also looked out of the window at what was happened on the slopes below. Then he whinnied. I didn’t know whether that was because he wished to join Grim or whether he was as frightened as I was.

I was frightened, frightened, frightened.

I saw Veder fall to Sofia’s spear, and Kader die by Orvar’s sword, Dodik too, and several more, falling right and left, and Jonathan riding there in the middle of it all, the storm tearing at his hair, his face growing paler and paler, and my heart grew more and more sick within me.

And then the end came!

Many cries were heard in Wild Rose Valley that day, but one came that was like no other.

In the middle of the battle, a battlehorn sounded through the storm and a cry went up:

“Katla’s coming!”

Then the scream, Katla’s scream of hunger, which everyone knew so well. Swords and spears and arrows fell to the ground and they who were fighting could fight no more, for they knew there was no saving them now. Nothing but the thunder of her storm and Tengil’s battlehorn and Katla’s screams could be heard in the valley, and then Katla’s fire hissed out, killing everyone whom Tengil pointed at. he pointed and pointed, and his cruel face was dark with evil; now I knew that the end of Wild Rose Valley had come.

I didn’t want to look, I didn’t want to look---at anything. Except Jonathan. I had to know where he was, and I saw him just below Mathias’s house, sitting there on Grim, pale and still, the storm tearing at his hair.

“Jonathan,” I cried. “Jonathan, can you hear me?”

But he didn’t hear me and I saw him spur on his horse and fly down the slope like an arrow, flying faster than anyone in heaven or on earth had ever flown, I know. He was flying toward Tengil...and he flew past him...

Then the battlehorn sounded again, but it was Jonathan who was blowing it now. He had snatched it out of Tengil’s hand and was blowing it so that it resounded, so that Katla should know that she had a new master.

Then it was quite quiet, even the storm was dying down. Everyone fell silent, just waiting. Tengil was sitting taut with fear on his horse, waiting. Katla was waiting too.

Once again Jonathan blew on the horn.

Then Katla screamed and turned in rage on the man she had once obeyed so blindly.

“Tengil’s time will come one day,” Jonathan had said, I remembered.

It had come now.

That was the end of the day of battle in Wild Rose Valley. Many people had given their lives for the sake of freedom. Yes, their valley was free now, but the dead were lying there and did not know it.

Mathias was dead and I no longer had a grandfather. Hubert was dead, the first to fall. He had never even got through the river gateway, because there he had met Tengil and his soldiers; and worst of all, he had met Katla. Tengil had brought her with him that very day to punish Wild Rose Valley for the last time for Orvar’s escape. He had not known it was the day of battle, though when he realized it, no doubt he had been glad Katla was with him.

But he was dead now, Tengil, just as dead as the others.

“Our tormentor is no more,” said Orvar. “Our children will be able to live in freedom and be happy. Soon Wild Rose Valley will be as before.