Og, Son of Fire
Chapter 8, "Scar Face the Terrible"
Chapter 9, "Sacrificed to Sabre Tooth"
illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull
ONLY vaguely was Og aware of anything that happened to him during the rest of the night. Now and then he gained a state of semi-consciousness and saw dimly that he was part of a weird tree-top procession formed by the huge band of apish tree people. Hundreds of them were swinging through the tops of the giant sequoias, and as they traveled their strange arboreal highway, this army of apish beings reminded Og of a band of conquerors, such was their demeanor. They swung through the branches, chanting weird songs, and now and then they uttered strange, deep-voiced, booming cries that Og guessed were their war cries and shouts of victory; cheers of conquerors, for this big tree-people band were proud of their achievement; proud that they had made war against a hairy man and, having captured him, were carrying him off a prisoner.
Never in the history of the race of tree men, at least not in the lives of any of his troupe and that was as far back as the history of their race was known to them had they had the courage to attack even one hairy man, let alone best him in conquest and carry him off. It was a triumph, an achievement, and to them, in their elation, it all appeared to be a great step forward for their kind.
Always had the tree people been jealous of the prowess of the hairy folk. Always had they envied them their courage, and their advancement. They had striven to be like them, but they had always failed, for their brain had not yet developed to the point where they could think out even the simple problems that the limited intelligence of the hairy people could master. In truth, they were several steps below the hairy folk in the scale of intelligence, and their progress upward was very much slower than that of these men who had learned to live in caves.
The light of a new day was filling the eastern sky with its brilliance when Og gained full consciousness and was able to comprehend the situation. The army of tree folk was still swinging enthusiastically onward over its tree-top highway, and Og found that he was still a prisoner. The giant leader held him captive, and because of his great strength the ape man handled him as if he were a child. One of the tree men's great arms was thrown about Og's middle and with head and feet and arms dangling the great creature carried him as easily as Og would have carried the limp body of a young goat that he had slain.
Og was weak, and sore, and passive; passive because he had not the strength to make an effort to free himself from his captors. He simply remained inert and limp and permitted himself to be carried in this awkward fashion wherever the huge tree man chose to take him.
His captor led the horde; as they swung from branch to branch and from one tall tree to another. On and on they hurried through the tree tops, making remarkably swift progress despite the awkwardness of their going. That they were far from the point where he had camped the night before and had been captured, Og was certain. Then, too, the character of the country had changed a great deal. The sequoias were slowly giving way to trees of new and different type. They were giant trees, tremendously tall, and growing close together, but instead of branches they had spreading fronds that reached a great distance upward and outward and were very strong, despite their graceful appearance. Then there were other trees, lower and more massive in character, with short thick trunks and foliage that spread over acres of ground, sending down other stems that took root and spread onward again. A single tree was a veritable forest.
OG did not know that these were giant palms and banyan trees and that his night's journey had taken him farther south than any point to which the hairy folk had yet ventured. He did know that the climate was perceptibly warmer, and that vegetation familiar to him was fast disappearing. Several times, from this treetop highway, he had a clear vision of the forest floor, and he understood then why the ape people traveled in the treetops. The vegetation below him was so thick and so massed and intertwined that no earth could be seen at all, and Og knew that even the strongest hairy man could never force his way through it. Only heavy animals like the mammoth, or the hairy rhinoceros would have the strength to trample a pathway there.
Whither his captors were taking him Og had not the vaguest idea. For once these tree people seemed to have a single purpose; a single desire to get somewhere, for they never ceased going. Og felt sick and sore and uncomfortable. He made a movement once to change from this hanging position, but his great captor snarled at him and cuffed him with such terrible force that he became unconscious again, nor did he regain his senses until he felt himself being laid prone on the ground.
He discovered that he was lying on a gently sloping hill, and that he was surrounded by a circle of crouching, inquisitive tree people. Back of this first line of apish beings were massed thousands of others. There were so many that Og could scarcely believe his eyes. They covered the hillside, they filled the trees, and rocks, all about him, and all were staring at him as if waiting patiently for him to open his eyes.
Beyond the mass Og could get a partial view of the valley. It was surrounded on all sides by towering palm clad mountains, but there were few trees in the valley bottom. Instead, there was a pleasant meadow overgrown with lush grass through which a broad, lazy stream slipped slowly by. To Og, used to the ruggedness of the country further north, it was beautiful and restful.
But he had little time to take in details, for so soon as he sat up a great chattering and squalling and taunting began. The tree folk became tremendously excited and danced up and down, and pointed their fingers at him, and chattered and grinned and snarled and made ugly faces. Some in the trees threw sticks at him and great round hard objects that Og had never seen before. Some stones and clods came from the tree folk on the ground, many of them hitting him resounding thumps.
THEN suddenly they left off throwing and began a weird sort of dance that slowly developed into a dizzily whirling mass as the apish beings joined hands and began capering in a huge circle around him. Og knew from their manner, and from some of the squeals and calls, that the whole clan of the tree people were celebrating his capture, and as he sat there looking at them with senses still dulled from the terrific punishment he had received, and the hardships of the long journey, he wondered vaguely what was to be done with him. He knew that had he been one of the tree people, captured by the hairy men of his kind, he would have been put to death ere this. Would this be his end? This thought troubled him greatly.
It was while this strange dance was in progress that Og felt the presence of a warm body close to him and, looking down, he discovered with a feeling of gladness that beside him, torn and scratched, and as hopelessly dazed as he, were the two wolf cubs. They too had been made captives by the tree people. Og reached out and touched them and in that action he found as much comfort as they evinced by the feeble motion of their tails.
Og's recuperation was swift, and the wolf cubs seemed to regain their strength and alertness just as quickly. Indeed, by the time the tree people had danced themselves tired, and many of them had gone off to seek other diversion, the trio of captives were almost normal once more and Og's brain was working to puzzle out his strange situation and find, if possible, a way of escape.
The dancing ceased, the great mass of tree people dwindled, scattering among the trees on either side of the valley. All, save a group of formidable looking apish beings, disappeared. Og surveyed those that remained with suspicion. They were all bigger and stronger than he, and all bore innumerable scars. Doubtless, they were the warriors of the clan. And leading them was a huge scar-faced one, whom Og quickly realized was chief of them all. Spreading out in a semi-circle, with Scar Face in the lead, they began slowly to advance toward him, at the same time snarling and showing their teeth and making faces that were indeed hideous.
Og stood his ground and faced them, the wolf cubs flanking him on either side and snarling with as much vigor as their enemies. The hairy boy could not understand it all, but he longed mightily for his stone-headed hammer, or better still, his more recent weapons, a pair of fire brands. The fact that he had lost perhaps, forever, the valuable alliance of the Fire Demon, gave him a feeling almost of despair. The tree men would never dare venture upon him so boldly were he thus armed.
Despite the fact that he was unarmed, Og stood his ground, determined to fight with tooth and nail to his death. He had not the vaguest idea what was about to happen to him, but he determined to go down fighting.
HIS boldness seemed to disturb even these giant warriors of the tree folk. They did not advance with the courage that they first displayed, although they did continue to make hideous faces and horrifying noises. But old Scar Face was not the coward that the others were. When the rest stopped he came on alone, advancing with a heavy rolling stride, while his long arms dangled clear to the ground. Stooped as he was, Og could see that the big ape man was very much taller than he was, and broader of shoulders and deeper of chest a formidable antagonist, indeed. Yet such was the courage of the hairy boy that instead of shrinking from him, he advanced a step or two toward him, crouching too, with his long arms and powerful hands spread ready to come to grips.
With a roar the great tree man charged, and Og leaped forward at the same instant. They met in mid air and crashed to the ground locked in a combat that was terrible to witness. What a clash that was. With all the fury of their primitive natures they fought, for to Og it was life or death. He felt certain that the scar-faced one meant to kill him, and Og's determination was to prevent it if he had in him the strength and courage to withstand the giant tree dweller.
Over and over they rolled on the ground, kicking, biting, clawing and thrashing with all their strength. Og had buried his powerful teeth into the corded neck of his antagonist, in an effort to reach his windpipe, while his strong hands tore at the tree man's stomach, trying to rip open the flesh and tear at his vitals. It was the primitive man's method of combat. He knew no other way to fight, and he pressed his attack with all the strength there was in his powerful body. The tree man, however, did not display the same viciousness. Rather he seemed to use his greater strength in protecting himself than in injuring the hairy boy. Og realized this and wondered. At first he attributed it to the tree man's lack of courage, but presently he knew that this was not so for in the melee the great ape man suddenly shifted his long arms in such a manner that with a single quick movement he could have broken Og's back and left him helpless, yet for some strange reason the tree man restrained himself. Og was more puzzled than ever.
Seeing their leader thus locked in combat with the captive seemed to instill more courage in the hearts of the other warriors of the tree clan, and suddenly they all closed in on the fighting pair, and Og again felt many hands gripping him, locking his legs and arms in helpless grips, and forcing his head and neck backward until he must needs let go his chewing at the throat of Scar Face, to protect his own neck from being broken.
Gradually they pinioned his arms and legs and head and trussed him about the body with their long strong arms, until he was utterly helpless. Then, as before, he felt himself being lifted off the ground and carried he knew not whither. For a long time they carried him and Og realized that they were taking him up to the upper end of the valley between the tall mountains. Soon the ground became rocky under foot, and seemed to slope slightly upward. Og wondered whether they meant to take him to the top of one of the mountains, and perhaps fling him from a precipice.
But they did not travel far up the slope before, one by one, they let loose their grip upon him until only Scar Face and another one of the ape men gripped him. Then, swinging him slowly back and forth between them several times, they hurled him from them. Og felt himself travel for a brief instant through space, then he landed with a dull and painful thud among a mass of jagged rocks, in the entrance to a dark cave. Half dazed he lay where he had fallen for a brief space and as he lay there he was conscious of two other forms hurtling through the air and falling beside him. They, too, lay still, where they were, and by their whimpering Og knew that he had the wolf cubs for his companions.
WHY had they not killed him?
This question puzzled Og more than any other. Certainly they had had ample opportunity. That night, there in the sequoia forest, they could have strangled him and left his body for the wolves. Or at any time during their long tree top journey they needed but to drop him from the branches of one of the high palms and the crash to the ground would have broken every bone in his body. And again, when they attacked him, Scar Face could have broken his back, but refrained, or the group of warriors together could have literally torn him limb from limb, yet they had not done so. Surely it could not have been cowardice that had stayed them, nor yet mercy, for mercy was a quality that Og knew but little about and the tree men nothing at all. Why then had he been spared?
Og puzzled with this question many times in the days that followed, and tired his slowly developing brain to absolute fatigue more than once in pondering for a reason.
It was strange position he found himself in. He was a prisoner. He knew this only too well, for during the hours of daylight Scar Face and some of his stalwart fighters crouched at points of vantage and Og knew by their demeanor that he could not pass them and go where he pleased. But his was a strange sort of prison. They had hurled him into a veritable blind canyon carved by nature in the rocky side of a mountain, whose high walls tapered from their broad opening into the pleasant valley, to a narrow declivity behind him that ended in the black and foreboding entrance of a great and deep cavern.
Og feared this cave, as did the wolf cubs. They kept as far away from the black entrance as they could, and always they watched it with signs of terror in their eyes. Og could read their fear in their growls and bristling hair, and instinct told him, too, that death lurked there in some terrible form. Just what it was he could not understand, for his sensitive nose, or delicate ears, or yet that strange protective instinct that was his, did not give him any definite indication of what the danger might be. Yet danger, he knew, was there and he too kept as far away from the cave's entrance as possible.
He and the wolf cubs were allowed to roam at will up and down the canyon, from the cave to its very mouth, where it looked out upon the broad and sunlit valley, but beyond this point they could not go for always Scar Face and his tree people were on guard to prevent him. It was at the mouth of the canyon, that, once a day, he found food. The tree people always at midday left a pile of strange fruits and stranger nuts for him to eat. There on a flat rock they laid them and Og knew by this that they were afraid to come further inside the canyon in which they had made him prisoner.
THE strange diet of fruit and nuts was at first distasteful to Og. The hairy people were meat eaters and fruit formed a very small part of their diet, save berries and certain roots and barks, which his people had learned to use. But the tree folk were not flesh eaters, and they gave him only what they ate themselves, but they gave in abundance, and Og, after a day oŁ fasting, found that he could eat this new food with a certain degree of relish.
This being a prisoner was strange and unpleasant to the hairy boy and for a time he did little but sit among the jagged rocks, with the wolf cubs beside him, and wonder what it was all about. But on the second day, as his numerous cuts and bruises began to heal, his spirits lifted and presently he began seeking about for ways out of his difficulty. The discovery that the tree folk were prevented by fear from entering the canyon, although it aggravated his fear of the lurking menace of the cave, also made him realize that in his prison he could do about as he chose without any interference from them. This fact discovered, Og forthwith set about making himself weapons, for he felt that he might need them sooner than he anticipated.
A STONE hammer was his first thought, and as he cast about among the rocks for desirable material, he could but think of the valuable weapons he had once possessed in the fire brands. How he regretted the over-confidence and the lack of vigilance that had made him let that precious fire burn out. Oh, if he only knew of some way of rekindling the flame; of calling back the Fire Demon.
Although there were rocks in profusion scattered about the canyon, Og was surprised to find that there was really a dearth of good material for a stone hammer. The rocks were all too large or of the wrong shape, and he spent a great deal of time searching and wandered all too close to the foreboding cave, before he recalled quite suddenly, and with a great deal of interest, the methods he had employed in getting the stone knife with which he skinned the wolves that day in the sequoia forest. He remembered suddenly that, not finding satisfactory material, he had broken a sharp scale from the large rock, by pounding it with another stone. Why not do the same thing to shape a hammer head?
Og sat down and thought the idea over. Then he found the best shaped stone he could and puzzled over it for some time before he proceeded with his first effort at craftsmanship. The stone was too heavy and too long. Og realized that if he could break off one end it would be nearer what he wanted. He proceeded to beat it against a boulder and presently he was rewarded by having part of it break off, leaving in his hand a rather good hammer head. But, this achieved, Og was not satisfied. He surveyed the product and realized that it was not as satisfactory as the last one he had possessed. It was too irregular and misshapen. The question then took form in his mind, why not reshape it with the aid of other stones?
ELATED with the idea, Og proceeded to find another stone that he could handle, and after a search he picked up one about the size of his fist that was black and extremely hard. Og did not know that he had fortunately found a piece of flint. With this and the rude hammerhead in his hands he sought out a flat rock, and sitting down with the hammer head between his knees, proceeded with his task of shaping it, while the guards of the tree people looked on from the mouth of the canyon with apish inquisitiveness.
But Og had not chipped more than a half dozen strokes when he made a startling discovery, one that made him experience a strange mixture of fear and elation. He proceeded first to chip away a jagged corner of the hammer head with his piece of flint, when suddenly, and much to his astonishment, the flint gave off a series of fire sparks. So startled was Og that he dropped the black stone and sat staring at it in amazement. He had discovered fire again.
After a time he picked up the flint and felt it carefully. It was not hot, yet it contained fire. That was strange. It was black. The cooling volcanic rock from which he had lighted his resinous torch first was also black. Was this, then, the same kind of fire rock? Og searched about and found a stick. He touched it to the flint; held it there a long time yet no tiny spirals of smoke rewarded him as he expected. Still he knew the fire was in the rock. It leapt out when he struck it against another rock. He tried it, and with the second tap more sparks flew.
Og examined the flint carefully; turned it over and over, felt it again, tried once more to light the stick, then, still holding it in his hand, he sat and thought and thought and thought, until his brain grew tired. The fire was in the rock, of that he was certain, but how to get it out and in his possession, under his control, was a vexing question.
Ere long the hammer head was shaped to his satisfaction. To secure a handle and tough bark with which to lash both stone and stick together was not difficult, for among the rocks was scrubby vegetation that yielded him both of these necessities. Og put his now valuable chipping flint in a safe place, while he worked diligently but carefully at making the rest of his hammer.
The corning of night was fraught with unpleasantness for Og. A prisoner there in the canyon, with the menacing entrance of that mysterious black cave behind him, and the guards of the tree people on the alert and closing his only way of escape, made more acute his inherent fear of the hours of darkness. How glad he was to have the company of the faithful wolf cubs then.
Before night was well upon him, Og and the wolf cubs climbed as high as they could on the sides of the canyon and, huddled behind a huge boulder, with their faces turned toward the rear of the canyon and the entrance of the cave.
And it was well for Og that he decided to climb part way up the canyon wall and take shelter behind the boulder, for hardly had he become comfortably huddled down with the wolf cubs nestled close to him, when the narrow confines of the canyon echoed with a wild blood-chilling roar and, through the blackness of the canyon, Og could see in the entrance of the cave two glowing eyes and the outline of a huge sabretoothed tiger.
Softly, yet swiftly, Og reached out and covered the mouths of the wolf cubs, for he knew that a whimper or growl from them would bring the great beast down upon them in an instant. Then like statues, without the movement of a muscle, they sat there and watched the great beast come slowly forth from the cave, stretch itself and yawn, then test the wind by throwing up its massive, ugly head. And as Og watched just a glimmer of the real idea for his imprisonment in the canyon took shape in his brain. Had they left him there as a sacrifice to this beast?
Og was close to the truth of the matter, though, of course, he could not know all of the details of how the great, sabre-toothed one, at times, made life miserable for the people of the tribe of Scar Face, appearing suddenly and collecting toll from their numbers, only to disappear just as suddenly and leave the pleasant valley quiet and unmolested for weeks. To the tree people the great tiger was a terrible monster and a mysterious one. They knew that it came from the cave and returned to it. They thought that it slumbered there and came out only occasionally, when extremely hungry. They did not know that this cave ran clear through the base of the mountain, and was really a backdoor to the great beast's real den, which opened into another valley beyond the mountains, a far more desirable valley from the tiger's point of view than that of the tree people, for hunting was better there with beavers, and sloths, oxen, deer, and wild horses in abundance, any one of which made a better meal for him than did the thin and wiry tree people. That was why the great sabre-toothed one left the den only occasionally by the back door to hunt in the valley of the tree people. Her periodical visits, however, were terrifying to the ape men, for always the great cat caught one of their number out in the open, or, failing this, climbed one of the tall palms, in which the tree people made their rude homes, and tore down the rough and flimsy platforms they had learned to build, and wiped out a whole family in its ferocious effort to get at least one victim to take back to the den. That was why Scar Face and his people had carried Og all the way back to the valley, and that was why the whole tribe rejoiced when he was brought in a prisoner. For weeks they had been dreading another visit from Sabre Tooth, and they felt that if they could furnish a victim she would leave them unmolested for a time at least.
Og sensed a great deal of this as he and the wolf cubs crouched trembling behind the big bowlder part way up the canyon wall and he watched the great beast pick its way slowly and deliberately among the rocks while fear gripped his heart.
Suddenly the tiger stopped and lifted its nose toward the sky, at the same time moving its head and thick muscular neck slowly from side to side. It was trying to trace the direction of an odor that came down on the night wind, and Og instinctively knew that the odor was his odor and that the sinister beast had detected his presence in the canyon.
Suddenly the tiger slowly lifted its nose toward the sky.
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