OG, tired but triumphant, with a dead goat slung over his shoulders and the wolf dogs trotting at his heels, returned to the home cave just before nightfall, as all of the cave dwelling people did, for not even the bravest was willing to be caught far from the protection of the colony when darkness came on.
But as he approached the cave he experienced a sensation of fear and dread. He knew instinctively that something was wrong, for the fire in the doorway had burned down to just a smouldering heap of dying embers. Og knew that Wab would never have been so inattentive unless something had happened.
Hastily he went forward calling, but as he entered the big cave his heart fell, for Wab was not about. He noted instantly that one of his stone hammers was gone from its accustomed place and that Wab's cherished flint knife had disappeared from the cleft in the rock wall where he always kept it.
The strange demeanor of the wolf dogs added a great deal to the discomfort that these observations caused him, for so soon as they entered the cave they bristled and growled and stepped about in stiff-legged anger just as they always did when Gog visited the cave. They sniffed at the ground, too, and trotted a little way from the cave in the direction of the forest.
Og could almost read the problem, but just then two hairy men, Big Face and Crooked Feet, passed, going toward the spring, and when they saw Og they told him of how they had seen Wab go off hunting with Gog that morning.
In an instant the whole situation dawned on Og. Gog had taken his helpless father off into the forest and Og instinctively knew that treachery of some sort or another was afoot.
He heaped sticks onto the fire and sat down for a few moments to think things over. Night was coming on. The forest would be a terrible place to travel in at night. But he thought too of his father and the terror that must come upon a man all but blind who might be left to wander about in the forest alone.
That thought was enough for Og. He must find his father. He must risk any dangers or any of the night terrors to find Wab. Hastily he made two fire brands and ignited them. Then, arming himself also with stone hammer and a long flint knife, he called to the wolf dogs. The animals he quickly made to understand just what was wanted of them, and when they did know their mission they bounded forward despite the fact that they were tired, and with noses to the ground followed the trail of Wab and Gog, while Og swung along behind them at a remarkably swift pace despite the fact that he too was tired from his day's efforts.
Into the black fastness of the forest they plunged, their only light being the glimmer from Og's torches. Despite his courage and the importauce of his mission, Og could not stifle the natural, instinctive fear that possessed him as he dodged in and out among the trees, his eyes and ears alert for any signs of danger.
Southward they swung toward the mountain range that cut their valley off from the valley of the warm lands beyond, and presently they began to mount the thickly wooded slopes. Strange night noises they heard aplenty. To most of these the wolf dogs paid little heed, but when from afar they heard the terrifying roar of a cave tiger and the answering challenge of some wandering cave leopard, the hair on their backs bristled. So did that of Og, and he actually trembled with fear despite the stoutness of his heart. This traveling at night through the forest was a fearsome thing to do, and time and again he was tempted to seek the shelter of some huge bowlder, and build a great fire beside which to spend the remainder of the night.
But the thoughts of his father somewhere here in the terrible forest, and without fire (for Og knew that Wab, or Gog either, would never travel with a fire in his hand the way he did), spurred the hairy boy on to move faster and put aside the desire to build a big protective fire at least until he had found his father.
Upward on the mountain side they climbed, the wolf dogs following closely the trail that Gog and Wab had taken. On and on they pushed, soon panting and out of breath. Og's lungs were pumping, too, and he sucked in air in great gasps; but still he climbed and kept pace with the hurrying dogs.
Soon they reached the gently rolling summit, where if it had been daylight they could have looked into the valley below. But as they halted there a brief space to catch their breaths, Og gave a loud and startled grunt, for from below him, and in the direction the wolf dogs were straining to go, rolled up to him a loud, booming sound. Og had little difficulty in recognizing it as the war noise of his old captors, the tree people. And this all added to his feeling of alarm, for he could tell by the volume of the sound that there were many apelike men below there in the valley and they were very angry.
If Og and the wolf dogs had hurried before now, they fairly raced through the blackness of the forest. Down the slope they crashed, the booming noise growing louder and nearer at every step. And as they plunged forward both Og and the wolf dogs grew more and more excited, until presently the hairy boy found himself beating his chest with one clenched hand and roaring at the top of his voice while the dogs set up a fierce barking that added to the general din of the occasion.
Suddenly the booming sound, which now seemed close at hand, stopped and Og became aware of big forms swinging among the branches of the trees. Sticks came pelting down out of the blackness, too, and he could see myriads of green eyes glowing at him and he could hear teeth gnashed and clicked together. Still he rushed forward until presently he broke into a clearing where was massed a horde of milling, chattering tree people.
His coming, however, caused panic and consternation among them. They saw his flaming firebrand and they scattered and fell back. And the parting of the mass left a lane open that extended to a huge rock where, with their backs to this wall, stood Gog and Wab, each with a blood-smeared stone hammer clutched in his hand while before them laid a pile of writhing bodies of tree people. Og could see at a glance that it had been a terrible battle and that Gog and Wab were all but done for. Indeed, Gog, dripping blood from a hundred terrible wounds, staggered and swayed as he stood there, and Wab had to lean against the rock for support.
At Og's coming the conflict ceased for most of the ape people scattered and took to trees where they stared down, chattering loudly and gnashing their teeth in anger and fear. Og strode across the bodies of the fallen ones and, standing there beside Wab, his burning torch held high, glared about.
By the light of the flickering flames he could see great, long-armed, crouching forms all about. Some of these he recognized as the powerful fighters of Scar Face. And presently he discerned the old fighter himself, coming slowly toward him, grimacing and chattering and holding up his hands as a sign of peace. Og beheld him with interest and not a little pleasure, for often he had thought of him and wondered whether he had been able to escape the terrible forest fire that be had started when he stole a firebrand and ran off into the forest with it.
By grunts and signs, Og showed his peaceful intention too, and presently Scar Face communicated the fact that the hairy boy had not come to wage war on them, for the chattering and scolding ceased and slowly some began to approach, while others, the trouble over, scattered among the trees and became lost in the night.
Og turned his attention then to Gog and Wab, both of whom had collapsed and now lay huddled and forlorn at the base of the big bowlder. Eagerly Og searched his father for signs of life, for he feared that the old hunter had passed on because of the many wounds he had received, and it was with great relief that he discovered still a strong heart beat.
Gog, however, had fared far worse than Wab. Fierce and terrible as a fighter, and valiant in battle too, the old leader, his treachery forgotten in the lust of combat, had carried the brunt of the fight from the very beginning, wielding a mighty hammer and crushing skulls right and left. The consequence was that the tree people had attacked him with utmost fierceness, as scores of bleeding wounds testified. When Og examined him he found the old leader all but dead. Indeed, even as the hairy boy leaned over him, Gog's heart stopped beating and Og turned from him with a shudder. The fierce old warrior had passed on to the land of dead men.
By signs and grunts Og made Scar Face understand that he wanted to carry the unconscious Wab back over the mountain and into the valley of the hairy people, and when the tree man understood he was quick to lend his tremendous strength and between them they carried the limp form of Og's father up the slope to the top of the mountain. There Scar Face refused to go farther, so Og shouldered the burden alone and picked his way slowly down the rocky, wooded slope, with the wolf clogs, tails drooping, at his heels. It was a hard journey for the tired hairy boy, and day was breaking over the eastern mountain tops before he reached the council grounds and the friendly shelter of the big home cave, where he could rest once more and care for the many wounds of his father.
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