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Og — Boy of Battle
Irving Crump
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1925

CHAPTER XV

THE LAND OF GREAT TURTLES

 
AND so thoroughly tired were they with the experiences of the morning and the stress and worry and the hardships of being lost in the savannas, and so well filled were they with good food after days of hunger that their sleep was long and heavy. The afternoon waned. The great red disc of the sun dropped beneath the edge of the world. The purple half light of evening came on and still they slept. And as they lay there sprawled out on the beach in a sleeping posture that Hairy People rarely took, strange things began to happen about them.

Out of the sea that had fallen calm and oily with the coming of evening appeared a big, ugly scale and bone covered head. Then a broad shell-encased back broke the gently rolling water and a huge savage looking turtle began to drag its cumbersome bulk slowly up the beach. Then another head appeared, and another shell-covered body broke the surface of the water, and another and still another until soon all along the edge of the beach turtles were crawling out of the sea. Fifty of them began to crawl up the beach, then a hundred, then a hundred more. Then came on endlessly, thousands of them crawling over the tops of each other to climb above the tide line on the beach. There were big ones and little ones some three times as big and as heavy as Og and Ru themselves. Their shells scraped and bumped together. They hissed at each other viciously, and struck with the quick striking movement of snakes their long necks extended and their ugly bony jaws snapping as they fought with each other for a place in the sand in which to lay their eggs for this was the breeding season for the great turtle.

Soon the noise the thousands of scraping bodies made on the beach was enough to awaken even the soundest sleepers. Og and Ru became conscious at the same instant. And when they saw what had happened, and how completely surrounded they were by the most horrible looking monsters they had ever beheld; when they heard the scraping and clashing and rasping of their shells as the great sea tortoises climbed over each other, and when they heard the hissing and snapping of ugly jaws as they fought for a place on the beach, the two Hairy Boys were as thoroughly frightened as they ever had been.

With startled cries of terror they leaped to their feet. And when they saw how many there were of the great shell-covered giants, they were panic-stricken. In no way could they reach the safety of the palm trees above the beach line. The turtles were everywhere crowding about them. Some were as large as the big tapir that the Hairy Men had slain; great cumbersome things with huge heads that darted about as swiftly as the head of a snake. Og and Ru gripped their stone hammers, the only weapons they possessed, with grim determination, but both of them realized with a sinking feeling that no matter how determined a battle they put up there were so many of these monsters and some of them were so big and formidable that it was questionable whether they could save themselves from being killed and torn to pieces by their snapping jaws.

The turtles resented their presence on the beach. Og could see that. As the horde of them worked their way up from the water they had avoided these strange creatures that lay stretched, on the sand and they moved about them in a wide circle. But as the beach became more crowded this circle narrowed and as the turtles became more vicious with the fighting among themselves for a place to lay their eggs they crowded closer and closer to the Hairy Boys and Og and Ru found the circle in which they stood slowly narrowing. And they knew that it would not be long before the great creatures would crowd in upon them, beat them down, crush them under their great weight, or tear them to pieces with their terrible jaws. Already smaller ones were creeping in across the circle. One came snapping almost at Og's heels. It was a small one compared with the largest among them, and Og swung at it with his stone hammer to kill it or drive it back.

With a rasping thump his weapon crashed down upon its shell-covered back, and then much to Og's surprise and consternation instead of biting through into the flesh the hammer bounced off the creature's back as if Og had hit a stone. He struck again with the same result and he could feel stinging, numbing pains in his hands and arms as he had often felt before when he had struck some hard and unyielding object. And when he realized how well armored and well protected these strange creatures were, he grew discouraged. What chance had they to protect themselves against these terrors from the ocean? Apparently they could not be killed.

The smaller turtle made angry by the pounding on its shell snapped and hissed at Og and struck at his legs, and in desperation Og jumped aside and swung a blow at its head, the stone hammer crashing down upon it full between the eyes. Then Og saw to his great joy that the thing did have one vulnerable spot, for the stone hammer clove the thin horny case of its skull and split it wide open and the turtle with a convulsive movement of its flippers lay still.

Two other smaller ones were advancing across the circle with slow determination, and as Og saw them come he leaped toward one, shouting to Ru as he did so.

"In the head, Ru! Strike him in the head only! His body is of stone but his head is weak." And Ru gathering courage from Og's aggressive spirit laid about him with his stone hammer killing several of the turtles that were crowding in upon them. But the stand they were making and the number they killed made no impression upon the cumbersome, slowly moving creatures, except to make them more angry, more resentful. Bigger turtles were here and there raising their heads out of the mass and glaring at the two Hairy Boys; looking at them with the strange, sinister weaving motion of a snake watching an enemy, and one, a tremendous brute bigger in bulk than the great cave bear and three times as heavy, began advancing upon them awkwardly but belligerently, and others were crowding in on all sides just as resentful of their presence; just as jealous of the little strip of beach on which they stood. The big one made ungainly but incredibly swift progress despite its size and heavy bulk. Its huge flippers rasped on the sand and its heavy shell-covered body rose and fell to the ground with a jarring thump at each stride. Its tremendous head with baleful yellow eyes was raised on its long scaly neck and its powerful jaws were opened ready to strike, ready to snap off an arm or a leg as easily as Og would bite through a piece of tender meat.

Facing the big tortoise, with stone hammers raised Og and Ru waited and watched it come on, wondering vaguely what the outcome of the battle would be. They could not fall back for big and little tortoises were behind them and on all sides. They could do nothing but stand and await its coming, and hope to beat it off, or kill it.

Before it was within striking distance Ru took a step forward and swung viciously at it. With a hiss and a lightning-like motion the turtle shot its head back into the protection of its shell but at the same instant it seemed almost to leap forward and one of its great flippers shot out in a powerful stroke and struck Ru in his stomach with terrific force sweeping him off his feet. The blow had been so swift and sudden that Ru, stunned by its force and taken completely by surprise went down and rolled over, and the next instant he found himself directly under the great turtle as it raised its heavy body on its flippers. One horror-fraught second he lay there and the hideous thought crashed through his brain that he was doomed; that death was hovering just above him; that in an instant the heavy bulk would crash down upon him and crush him, or pin him to the sand while the terrible jaws tore his flesh in shreds.

With a scream of terror Ru kicked and struggled to get to his feet, to get out from under that menacing heavy bulk. But before he could even get to his knees the heavy body of the turtle fell across Ru's legs and he felt himself pinned down beneath a weight that he could not throw off. Beside him, not two feet from his face, the great snaky head was sliding out of its shell, and the jaws were opening. The fearsome yellow eyes were fixed upon him. Death stared at him. He was cold; voiceless in his terror. He closed his eyes and waited a breathless instant for the horrible end to come.

So swiftly had Ru been knocked down and pinned beneath the turtle that Og stood petrified with horror for the moment. He stood and started as he saw Ru struggling under the weight of the great body, saw the turtle's head begin to slide out of its shell and saw the ugly mouth open. Then suddenly as he realized the grave danger that his companion was in — as he realized the horrible death that Ru was facing he gave voice to a fierce cry of anger and whirling his stone hammer above his head he leaped and struck; struck with all the power in his long arms and heavy sloping shoulders. The stone hammer hissed through the air and crashed down just as the turtle's head emerged from the shell smashing through the creature's bony skull and sinking up to the handle into its brain.

Og tried to wrench it free for a second blow but the turtle in a convulsion of death, raised its head now bloody with the stone hammer still fastened in its skull, beyond Og's reach. It raised its heavy body upward too and for an instant Og saw that Ru was free of its weight. And in that instant unmindful of the huge flippers Og drove almost beneath the creature's heavy body and dragged the all but unconscious and badly hurt Ru into his arms. And then because turtles had closed in all about him, because there was scarcely enough beach for him to stand upon, Og with a tremendous bound leaped upon the back of the big turtle that had attacked them and holding Ru on the rough corrugated surface of the creature's shell lay there and clung fast until the beast's convulsions ceased and it lay still.

But it was only a temporary refuge that Og had found. From all directions turtles began to close in upon them again, to strive to climb upon the back of their big dead companion, and pull them down. Og, holding Ru in his arms got to his feet. The beach was a perfect sea of heaving shell-covered backs and darting heads. There was only one way left to him to escape; to gain the beach and the shelter of the palm trees. Og took it. With the limp form of Ru slung over his shoulders he leaped from the back of the big turtle to the back of its nearest neighbor and then before darting heads and gnashing jaws could slash his legs he jumped to the back of another and still another. Leaping, stumbling and sometimes staggering under the weight of Ru he made his way up the beach, over the back of the furiously angry turtles. Some did slash deep wounds into his calves and thighs and once when he stumbled he found himself almost pinned down between two crunching shells and he freed himself only just in time.

Finally he reached a clump of cocoanut. palms. And with Ru still hanging across his shoulders, climbed to the safety and shelter of the fernlike branches. There throughout the night he and Ru nursed their wounds and watched by the light of a big lustrous moon the strange sight of thousands of turtles creeping and crawling across the beach. They could hear the scraping and grating of their shell-covered bodies and they could hear their ugly hisses as they fought with each other.

But above the sound of the moiling mass of turtles they heard other and more fearful sounds. Back in the bush they could hear the terrible high-pitched laughing cry of the hyenas, the snarling squall of the great cave leopard, and now and then the roar of a sabre-tooth tiger echoed across the jungle fastness. And Og as he listened knew that these great creatures were watching the turtle horde, watching eagerly, expectantly. But as great and as strong as they were none of them dared venture out upon the beach among them. Instead they waited and watched and lurked in the jungle until dawn came on and the turtles had gone back to the sea.

Then they came out upon the beach and dug in the sand where millions of eggs had been buried by the turtles. And on these they feasted, and over them they fought until broad daylight drove them to the cover of the jungle again.

Then it was that Og and Ru climbed limpingly down from their tree shelter and ventured out upon the beach too. First they secured their stone hammers. Ru found his where he had dropped it and Og wrenched his out of the skull of the huge dead turtle which he examined with great curiosity. And then they too feasted on the delicious turtle eggs until their hunger was completely satisfied.

But as they feasted Og kept watching the dead turtles on the beach and an idea suddenly took shape in his mind. Finally without a word to Ru he went over and examined one of the smaller turtles they had killed. Then with his hammer he began to pound upon the edges of the shell until he had cracked the top shell from the bottom plate. This done he tore the flesh of the turtle from the upper shell with his strong fingers and the aid of sharp clam shells, and scraped the inside until all signs of meat and blood were gone. Then with a cry of triumph he held it up, first against his chest, then against his back explaining to Ru excitedly meanwhile that with such a shell as a protection, a shield, they were invulnerable. Nothing could penetrate; nothing could crush such bony armament.

Og little realized then that he had devised the shield; the first protective armament that human being had ever adopted. And that for centuries after that fighting men and adventurers of all kinds would carry out and elaborate on his idea — the idea that he had gained through watching the turtles.

Ru was quick to sense the value of it when he was shown and with the help of Og he, too, broke a shell from one of the smaller turtles they had killed and soon both of them had creditable, though rather heavy, shields. And because they were so pleased with their invention they amused themselves for a long time that day on that beach by fighting friendly duels with their stone hammers and learning to fend the blows on the shell shields. They threw stones at each other too with all the force and accuracy at their command and yelled with delight when they heard them thump against the shields and go bounding off harmlessly.

But Og abruptly put a stop to this pleasure when he reminded Ru of their adventures of the night before. It was high time he told him that they prepared to leave the beach and enter the jungle to find a safe place for the night. But before they left they both realized that they wanted to equip themselves with spears and knives. Ever since he had first discovered the hard flinty quality of some of the shells that strew the beach Og had been collecting the best shells he could find. And it took very little effort to convert some of them into knives and capital spear points, a labor to which they devoted the entire afternoon, before they started into the forest again.


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