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Og — Boy of Battle
Irving Crump
Dodd, Mead & Co.



THE great snake for several minutes lay quiet with its mouth still encompassing the horse's head and its coils contracted around its body. It seemed to be resting after its terrific efforts. Then presently it began to move ever so slowly and Og and Ru were awed when they realized just what the monster was doing. It was slowly swallowing whole the limp remains of the horse. The great jaws that held the animal's head seemed to be elastic, almost boneless things, able to stretch and spread enough to engulf anything. Slowly they moved forward along the head of the horse until the crushed animal's ears had disappeared. Then the neck went faster for it was smaller than the head and apparently easier to swallow. But when the snake reached the chest and shoulders and shattered legs, the snake's jaws expanded until the Hairy Boys felt certain that they would split and tear apart. The snake made slow work of this part of the operation, spewing out and covering the horse with sickening, slimy saliva as it had done the rest of the animal. In that way it made the swallowing process easier to accomplish. The air reeked with the stench of the snake by that time and Og and Ru were becoming dreadfully nauseated. But still they were fascinated by the gruesome operation and stayed to watch.

The bulky part of the horse once beyond the snake's throat it swallowed the rest of its meal faster, and when the animal's rear hoofs and the last wisp of its tail had disappeared between the thin scaly lips of the serpent and its mouth had come back to its normal size, Og and Ru watched with wonder, as the great bulk of the horse moved slowly down the snake's body toward its stomach making a series of bulges and bumps until it finally settled in the thickest portion of the snake's anatomy and made the reptile about twice its normal circumference. While it was accomplishing that part of the operation the snake lay quite still and motionless as if it were enjoying its meal to the utmost. Then presently it raised its head and long neck above the grass and looked sleepily about. Og and Ru could see that it was not vigilant or alert. All its ferocity had disappeared and it seemed quite docile and sleepy, for presently its head dropped slowly back into the grass and it fell sound asleep. Og and Ru marveled at this for they did not know that it is characteristic of all snakes after they have eaten their fill to become very sluggish and sleep for hours while the food is slowly digesting.

For a long time they waited there in the grass and watched the big serpent expecting to see it awaken and move off into the swamp again. But the longer they waited the more soundly the snake seemed to sleep and slowly it dawned upon Og that now was the time, if ever, to kill the monster; to put an end to the great reptile that all too frequently found its way to the colony of the Hairy Men and ruthlessly invaded their caves to drag out and kill one of their number.

The mere thought of venturing any closer than he was to the monster made Og shiver with fear as he recalled their experiences of the morning and the death of the little horse they had just witnessed. But Og was fast learning to master some of those instinctive fears that possessed him; to dominate them with his fast developing will power, and so presently he whispered a plan to Ru.

With the suggestion that they approach any closer to the great snake than they were Ru, also, recalled his experiences of the morning, and became dreadfully frightened. But the courage that Og possessed gave Ru a stronger heart and presently he nodded his head in assent. Then gripping their spears they began to creep forward in the long grass. Slowly and cautiously they moved, hardly rustling the grass stalks together for fear of awaking the sleeping monster. Soon they came out into the open space where the struggles of the snake and the little horse had beaten flat the long grass, and there, so close to them that they could reach out and touch the great ugly repulsive looking scaly folds of its body lay the great snake. Once more instinctive fear swept over them both. What they wanted to do more than anything else was to spring to their feet and rush madly, blindly away. By sheer will power alone did they drive themselves to go on with the task they had set themselves to do, for they realized all too fully that should the serpent awaken suddenly they would suffer the same horrible sort of a death that had come to the little horse. But still they drove themselves fearfully to the work they had set out to do.

Prone and still moving with scarcely a sound they made their way toward the head of the reptile, which seemed an extremely long way off. Fold after fold of the monster they skirted, sometimes so near to its ugly body that they almost brushed against it. Time and again they shuddered and shivered with repressed fear for there was something cold, clammy and deathlike about the scaly sides of the monster, so close to them and something sinister and terrible in its undulating contour. And once the huge reptile moved ever so slightly in its slumbers, and Og and Ru could scarcely restrain a cry of fear and a desire to leap up and run. They huddled close together and lay motionless for a long time before they could muster courage to go on again.

Slowly they worked their way toward the huge, ugly, flat head of the monster which, because it lay doubled back over several folds of its body, they could not see until they approached very close to it. They came upon it suddenly, unexpectedly. They were within a foot of the horrible scaly lips and blank, staring hideous eyes and they could feel its warm, fetid breath full in their faces before they realized it. For a moment they were both paralyzed with fear. But Og knew that they must act quickly, and strike swiftly and surely else they would come to a sudden and dreadful end, for he realized that almost any moment an instinctive sense of impending danger might awaken the reptile.

Indeed even as Og and Ru got stealthily to their feet and poised their spears above their heads to strike a tremor ran through the huge reptile, its blank, hideous eyes became awake and focused, and it started sleepily to raise its head.

With yells of fear and consternation, both boys struck. Og with all the force of his powerful, long arms, broad back and sloping shoulders drove his spear downward, deep into the thin skull of the reptile. Then exerting all his strength he shoved on it until the flint point went clear through and deep into the earth pinning the reptile to the ground. Ru's spear, as effectively aimed, pierced one of the snake's eye sockets and went deep into its brain.

Both Hairy Boys leaped away and scuttled to a safe distance to stand and watch in awed and trembling silence the death struggles of the monster. And it was well that they did for it its last convulsions the great snake whipped and lashed its huge body about and writhed in terrible fashion, and had they been within striking distance of those ugly folds they would certainly have been crushed to death. The great snake broke Og's spear from the ground and raising its bloody head with the two spear shafts protruding from it struck blindly, once, twice and then again, at an enemy it could not see. Then it dropped back limply to the ground and the convulsions suddenly grew less and less until they ceased entirely, save for the occasional twitch of the extreme end of its tail which seemed to take a long time to die.

What a wild shout of triumph was raised by the Hairy Boys, when they saw they had really killed the terrible enemy. They dashed in and pulled and wrenched their spears from the dead thing's head and began a little dance of victory around the reptile climbing over it, kicking it, calling it names, and gloating because of their triumph over it.

And when they had tired of this sort of amusement Og suggested that they each take a big strip of its gaily colored scaly skin, for he had conceived the idea of making a belt of it in which to carry his stone hammer, and then too he wanted something to take back to the cliff colony of the Hairy people as a trophy; something over which to boast when all the tribe should gather around the council rock to hear the story of their achievements.

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