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

CHAPTER XVII

THE WINGED DEATH

 
BACK toward their camp against the quartz cliff they hurried after Ru had killed the rabbit for both of them were famished after their hard morning's hunt that had come to naught. While Og kindled the fire Ru skinned the rabbit. Then he proceeded to cook it and while it was sizzling above the flames Og busied himself with the strips of goat skin from which he scraped all the hair and particles of flesh that still clung to it. This done he took his stone hammer and broke a tough green sapling and stretched the strips of skin from one end of the sapling to the other so that it would keep the strips of skin from shrinking very much as they dried. And to make them taut he braced another stick so that one end was against the strips of hide and the other pressed against the bowed out sapling.

These he set beside the cliff in the full glow of the fire for he wanted the skin to dry out as quickly as possible, because he needed some of the strips to replace lashing on his shield and others to tie up bundles of flint and shells and horns and other things that he would normally have carried in his tiger skin pack sack.

Their meal was ready by the time he had finished this work and with the smoking carcass of the rabbit on a flat stone between them he and Ru crouched on the ground and began to tear chunks of steaming flesh from it eating with much noisy smacking and grunting and sucking of fingers. One rabbit, big though it was, was not any too much for the two of them and they devoured it to the last scrap of flesh and even tore the skeleton apart and crunched the bones between their strong teeth sucking the marrow from the hollow centers. They lingered over this a long time, and then because the fire was warm and they were tired after their hard hunt of the morning, they relaxed against the quartz cliff and rested while Og thought with growing rancor of the great cave leopard and how it had cheated them of their just quarry. As he thought he began to devise schemes and ways and means of getting even with the leopard, for there was developing strong within him a sense of superiority over all animals. They must fear him, they must respect him. He was greater than they. He had killed one of the biggest of them, the mammoth. He had killed the fiercest of them, the sabre-tooth tiger. He was greater than any of them because he could think. They must respect his greatness.

Thus did Og's mind work while the fire died to ashes, while Ru with thoughts untroubled dozed off to sleep and while the sun started downward behind the line of White-Haired Old Men, the mountains that reared their peaks into the sky. Then because Og realized that he had been wasting his time in dreaming he bestirred himself and took his turtle shell shield on his knees. Then he reached for the sapling on which the strips of goatskin had been strung to dry in the heat of the fire. The warmth had dried them well, and in drying they had become taut and firm; so taut that they had bowed the sapling out in a beautiful sweeping are and had forced the stick that had been wedged between them so hard against the bow that it was with some difficulty that Og forced it lose. Indeed because it resisted him he became a little angry and knocked the end of it lose from the bow with the flat of his hand.

A surprising thing happened then. The stick seemed to jump through the air. There was the strum of the goat skin strips snapping tight and the stick, hurled by the spring of the bow, went hissing through the air.

The next instant Ru, sleeping soundly not far away, leaped to his feet with a yell of pain and whirled round and round reaching for the back of his leg where Og saw, to his amazement the stick, sharp of point, embedded in his flesh — embedded so deep that it hung there while blood flowed from the wound it had made.

Og burst into a loud laugh at the joke that had been played on Ru. But Ru, angry, turned on him with stone hammer ready. His face was like a storm cloud.

Swiftly Og's laughter passed. His expression of fun fled before one of concern.

"The stick had wings, Ru. It flew at you and stung you in the leg. Let me pull it out," he cried, leaping toward Ru and pulling the stick from the wound.

And then as he stood there looking at the bloody point of this chance arrow, a look of amazement overspread his face. A new thought beat home in his brain. The stick had wings. The bent sapling and the strips of skin had given it the power to fly through the air — to leap at Ru and sting him in the leg.

Eagerly he turned and picked up the bent sapling, still bowed by the pull of the dried thongs. He examined it closely and pulled at the thongs. It seemed alive. It resisted his pull; tugged back at him. And when he let go of the thongs they snapped back taut with an ugly strumming sound.

Og fitted the cross stick against the strings again and pulled it back to rest the other end in the arch of the bow. But before he had drawn it all the way back his fingers slipped and he let go of it. Instantly the strings strummed and the arrow leaped from the bow and went singing through the air to thump against a tree some distance away and knock lose a big piece of bark. And Og saw then that he possessed a new weapon; a weapon that could throw a shaft through the air with such force that it would bury itself deep into the flesh of an animal even as it had buried itself into Ru's leg.

In high excitement he explained it all to Ru. They retrieved their first arrow and tried it again and again. Ru became very excited also. He wanted a bow too, and with a goatskin thong and a sapling he made one. Than he fashioned an arrow and tried it. And so good was the bow he made and with such force did it send his first arrow that the shaft stuck fast in the tree it hit.

Together they began to study their new weapons then. Og fashioned an arrow after the manner of his spear and put a small tip of obsidian to it and this made a vicious little shaft that flew far and buried itself deep into a tree. He studied the bow too and saw that it was the spring and resistance of the sapling that made the flight of the arrow possible. He began to search then for tougher, more resilient wood, and straighter sticks of which to make arrows. All the rest of the day he and Ru worked and by firelight until well into the night. And all the next day they worked too, sparing only a little time to hunt for food. By the following afternoon both of them had stout bows and a half dozen flint and obsidian tipped arrows to their credit and were fast learning how to use them with force and accuracy.

When it became too dark for them to see to shoot at the tree they had chosen as their target, tired but tremendously elated they rekindled their fire and cooked another rabbit that Og with great good fortune had shot through with one of his arrows. And as they ate they talked of the great things they would do with this new weapon. "We are masters of everything now. Masters of every beast that walks," said Og. "Tomorrow we will make the leopard the first to know. We will show him the first of all how great we are. Tomorrow."


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