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The Brothers Lionheart

But I felt, or perhaps I heard, the sobs in Jonathan’s breast, and as we walked home, he was weeping, which he never usually does.

They grieved in Wild Rose Valley that day. Everyone grieved. Everyone except Tengil’s soldiers. One the contrary, they were pleased every time Tengil came to Wild Rose Valley, for then he gave all his Tengilmen a feast. The blood from the wretched man who had been killed had hardly dried in the square when a huge vat of beer was brought there, and pigs were roasted on spits so that the fumes lay thick over Wild Rose Valley, and all the Tengilmen ate and drank and boasted about Tengil, who gave them so many good things.

“But they’re Wild Rose Valley’s pigs they’re eating, the bandits,” said Mathias, “and Wild Rose Valley’s beer they’re drinking.”

Tengil himself was not at the feast. When he had finished pointing, he had gone back across the river.

“And now he’s probably sitting contentedly in his castle, thinking he’s struck terror into Wild Rose Valley,” said Jonathan, as we walked home. “He probably thinks that there is nothing left here but terrified bondsmen now.”

“But he’s wrong there,” said Mathias. “What he doesn’t understand, that Tengil, is that he can never subdue people who are fighting for their freedom and who stick together as we do.”

We went past a little house with apple trees all around it, and Mathias said:

“That’s where the man they killed lived.”

A woman was sitting on the steps outside. I recognized her from the square and remembered how she had screamed when Tengil had pointed at her husband. Now she was sitting with a long pair of scissors in her hand, and she was cutting off her long fair hair.

“What are you doing, Antonia?” Mathias said. “What are you going to do with your hair?”

“Bowstrings,” she said.

She didn’t say anything else, but I’ll never forget the look in her eyes when she said that.

Many things brought the death penalty in Wild Rose Valley, Jonathan had told me, but the worst offense was to carry weapons; that was forbidden more than anything else.

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