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Og — Son of Fire
Irving Crump
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1922

CHAPTER VI

AT BAY WITH THE WOLF PACK

 
OG trembled with the inborn fear of the hairy men who knew that to be caught alone at night by the wolf pack was certain and horrible death. Despite the knowledge that he had a mighty weapon in his fire Og felt this fear and he crouched lower and shuddered as he peered among the trees for the searching, gleaming eyes of the first of the pack hunters.

Yet with his fears he did not lose his new found interest in mental speculation. He watched the wolf cubs with great curiosity. Here was coming a horde of their kind; would they listen to the pack call and desert him, or would they be urged on by the presence of a great number to turn and attack him? Og knew he could prevent this now with a blow of his stone hammer. Yet he forbore, for he had confidence in them and, for some reason he could not understand, he wanted his confidence tested out. So far he had been to them a master and a companion helping them and sharing their hardships. Here was to be a test of their loyalty. He wondered how it would work out.

On came the giant pack, their terrible chorus now echoing through the night. They were following a scent Og knew by the directness and swiftness of their coming. Og thought a moment and then he knew. They were headed for the Valley of the Stream. From afar they too had caught the odor of the dead horses and they were coming to the feast. Presently Og heard the soft pad-padding of many feet. Then in the blackness among the trees he caught the gleam of eyes, many of them, hundreds of them, thousands of them, as the big pack flowed among the giant sequoias. Og could see their sinister shapes vaguely as they loped along through the darkness, and as he watched them come he could hardly believe that there were so many wolves in the world.

The pack stopped. Og and his fire arrested them. They stopped their calling too, and in the gloom among the trees they began encircling the campfire, drawing closer and closer. Og watched them fearfully and he knew that he would stand little chance in the face of that horde if they were to plunge in upon him. He knew that the fire held them from an immediate attack. How long this would keep them off he could not guess. Eventually, he knew, he would have to fight for his life. How long he could stand up under the wolf pack was a question. Grimly he determined to sell his life dearly. He stood up, and grasped a fiery brand in either hand, and flattened himself against the big bowlder, alert and ready for the attack when it should come.

Closer and closer crept the wolves. Bold yet cautious with their boldness. Some came fully into the firelight and lay there and snarled and glared at him. Og shifted his fire brand and whipped stone upon stone at them. Some leaped back with snarls. Others stood their ground. One, hit fairly between the eyes, fell, kicked convulsively for a moment and lay still. Og knew that he had killed him, and despite his situation the hunting yell of triumph of the hairy men leapt to his lips and echoed through the night. It was an achievement for a hairy man to kill a wolf under any circumstances.

The call seemed to affect the wolf pack like a challenge, and one, a scarred and savage looking old warrior, the leader of the pack, stalked so close to the fire that Og could have reached over and touched him with his fire brand. There he stood and snarled at the hairy boy, and Og read in that snarl certain death, The hairy boy knew his time was at hand.

With a mighty leap the old wolf hurled himself clear over the fire and with eyes blazing and fangs opened and ready to set in the hairy boy's throat he bore down upon the valiant figure who leaned back against the rock.

Og saw him coming, saw him leap, saw the evil light in his eyes, the set of his powerful jaws, and the long yellow fangs. He was frightened; terribly frightened, and he shrieked with terror as he lunged forward with one of his fire brands. But his fear did not affect his aim. The blazing stick was jammed squarely into the big wolf's mouth and down his throat, and with a gurgling snarl of rage and fear the beast fell struggling at Og's feet. Swiftly the hairy boy reached for his stone hammer. But quickly as he moved the other forms moved quicker. With snarls that were ugly the wolf cubs leaped upon the fallen leader of the pack and burying their teeth into his hairy throat held him struggling and kicking on the ground until Og with his stone hammer crushed in his skull.

Again the triumphant hunting call of the hairy men echoed through the night, and this time the pack did not creep closer, for Og, elated at his victory, seized fiery brand after fiery brand and hurled them blazing at the slinking forms. The wolves leaped back snarling. Og knew he had them cowed. He knew, too, he had them puzzled. They could not understand why two young wolves should be on the boy's side of the fire and should help to pull down their leader. The pack snarled at the cubs and the young wolves hurled defiance back.

But the call of the cooked meat; the feast awaiting the pack in the valley of the stream was too strong for the wolf horde. True they had smelled cooked meat here, — a little of it, and here, too, was some food. But their leader was gone and there was small use in lingering facing a puny human being made strong by some mysterious power in blazing sticks, when the air was heavy with the scent of much meat not far away. Gradually the pack began to melt into the blackness as group after group impatiently broke away and started up wind toward the feast. Soon only a few stragglers were left to snarl across the camp fire at the hairy boy and the, to them, renegade wolves, And before long these, too, followed the big pack northward.

Og stood at bay until the last gleaming eye had disappeared from the blackness in front of him. Then he put his fire brands into the flames once more and crouching down drew the body of the old wolf to him. Long he gazed at this and at the two wolf cubs and gradually he realized that the young wolves had stood the test. They had been loyal to him. They had repaid him for his care of them. Og began to have a feeling of gratitude that he sought to express. And his method of expression took a strange form. As he had chanted "Og, Og, Og," in the Valley of the Stream when he had conquered fire, now he began to chant, "Ru, Ru, Ru, Ru," rocking eagerly back and forth and pointing to the two wolf cubs who watched him curiously. He was giving them a name, the highest honor a hairy man could bestow. "Ru" was their name and to Og it meant, "the beast that repays loyalty with loyalty." And thus did the wolves that renounced the pack become "Ru" the dog, the enemy of the lawless and the companion of man.


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