Og, Son of Fire
Chapter 10, "In the Dark of the Night"
Chapter 11, "Fire"
Chapter 12, "Stolen Flames"
Up mounted the tiger, fangs bared and eyes glowing.
Og -- Son of Fire
by Irving Crump
illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull
SLOWLY the giant tiger began to flatten itself among the rocks while the heavy head with its glowing eyes moved about trying to locate Og, either by smell or by sight. That the great cat knew he was in the canyon and close at hand was evident from its actions. For a long time it crouched motionless among the rocks, save the slow and subtle movement of its head and the silent waving of its tail. Presently it began to creep forward ever so slowly, moving across the canyon in the direction the soft wind was blowing and heading directly toward the boulder behind which the hairy boy and his wolf companions crouched.
Og's heart almost stopped beating. Yet, with all his fear, he never moved a muscle, for he realized that the tiger knew he was close at hand, but had not yet been able to locate him, and until it did it would not spring upon him. It must see him first and know for a certainty just where he was before it would risk a charge or any quick movement.
Softly and slowly it slipped forward, from stone to stone and from boulder to boulder, taking advantage of every shelter and waiting long and patiently in the deep shadows while its evil eyes searched every possible hiding place to locate its victim. So well hidden were Og and the wolves, and so silent did they keep, that the big cat was completely baffled. But Og knew that the natural determination of the beast would not let it give up the search for him, and it was inevitable that it would find him and pounce upon him, breaking his neck with one sweep of its terrible paw, or cleaving his backbone in half with its mighty jaws. What was he to do? What chance would he have, even with his stone hammer and the alliance of the wolf cubs, against this monstrous man-eater?
In the desperation of the moment an idea was born. He wondered how solidly this rock that he crouched behind was embedded in the side of the canyon. He remembered that when he had located it during the hours of daylight he had noted that it was none too well fixed in its place. He wondered how great a shove would be needed to send it crashing down the slope to the bottom of the canyon, twenty or thirty feet below. He wondered whether he had the strength to start it on its downward path. It seemed to be his only hope. Softly he put his shoulder against it and tried it. It moved with unexpected ease and made a grating noise, at the same time dislodging loose dirt and pebbles that rolled down the slope, making a surprisingly loud noise in the stillness.
The tiger flattened against the ground with a soft hiss and its ears went back against its head, while its eyes glowed like live coals. Og, frightened by what he had done, loosened his grip upon the wolf cubs and stood up. Instantly the tiger saw him and gave voice to a roar that echoed and re-echoed across the narrow canyon, and sent chills racing up and down the back of the hairy boy and the whimpering wolf cubs. Then, like a flash, it charged.
TWO great leaps brought it to the foot of the slope, and with swift and powerful strides it began to climb among the rocks directly beneath Og. The hairy boy watched it, over the top of the boulder, trying to time his attack so that the big beast would be in a position from which it could not escape when he should launch the heavy boulder. He knew that a mistake on his part meant swift and sudden death for him. He knew that unless he could bowl the great cat over and crush it down with the rock his end would follow quickly.
Up mounted the tiger, mouth opened, fangs bared, and eyes glowing. Og could see the beast distinctly now, in spite of the darkness, and he realized what a hideous fate would be his if luck were not with him, or his strength or nerve should fail him. He gritted his teeth and braced both hands against the boulder, at the same time planting his short, crooked legs firmly against the ground.
The tiger came on, but the steep slope retarded its progress. In spite of its great claws its footing on the rocks was not certain and small stones were dislodged and rolled clattering down to the bottom of the canyon as it climbed. It was half way up the slope now, half between the canyon bottom and the terror-stricken hairy boy. Og dared not let it come further, for it might reach firmer footing and with one terrific spring pounce upon him. The hairy boy gave a mighty heave, putting all the strength in his powerful back and legs in the shove. The boulder, with a crunching noise, came out of its insecure resting place, balanced a moment on edge, then in a shower of stones and dust tipped over and crashed down the incline on its journey of destruction.
The hairy boy gave a mighty heave.
The tiger saw it coming, and for an instant it paused and flattened itself against the slope, spitting viciously. That pause was fatal. The next instant, realizing its danger, it tried to leap forward and fling itself out of the path of the whirling boulder, but the great stone crashed upon it before it could leave the ground. Momentarily there was a pause in the mad career of the stone, then it sped on, and with it, grinding against other boulders, went the clawing, spitting body of the big tiger.
To the bottom of the slope they rolled together, in a mad whirlwind of flying stones and dust. There they landed with a crash, the heavy stone pinning the great striped cat against another and larger boulder that stopped the wild plunge. There it lay, scratching and clawing at the huge stone that held it prisoner and making the night hideous with its terrible screams.
OG and the wolf cubs remained on the slope of the canyon wall trembling and wondering what was to happen next. But when the boy discovered the condition of the beast and knew for a certainty that it was held captive by the weight of the stone, he added his voice to the general din and gave the hairy man's hunting call of triumph. Again and again he shouted in wild ecstasy, then, seizing his newly made stone hammer, he scrambled down to the bottom of the canyon, and, swinging his weapon over his head, crashed it down upon the tiger's head. Again and again he beat it until the great head bled from a dozen different wounds, and the animal lay still among the rocks. Then once more Og raised his voice in a triumphant shout that echoed and re-echoed up and down the canyon and out into the pleasant valley, where the tree people heard it and wondered.
All night long Og and the wolf cubs paced up and down beside the dead tiger, the hairy boy gloating over his achievement and enjoying his triumph to the fullest. He kicked the limp body, and spat upon it. He called it dreadful names in the tongue of the hairy people, he stood upon it, sat astride it, pulled its tail, and finally sat down and watched it proudly.
And well might the hairy boy be proud of his accomplishment. The great cave tigers had taken a heavy toll of his people for many years, yet never to Og's knowledge had anyone of his tribe, even his father, who was the mightiest hunter of them all, ever slain one of these terrible beasts single-handed. Indeed, Og had only heard of one ever having been killed, and that was one that, wounded and sick from a recent encounter with a hairy rhinoceros, had crawled to the river for water. There the hairy people had found it and cornered it. The whole tribe had joined in the killing of it and they had stoned and clubbed it to death. Og had seen the skin, or that part of it that could be salvaged. Old Gog, the scarred and irritable old war leader of the clan, would bring out the small piece of it that was left and drape it about his loins at feasts and on other state occasions.
Og realized with an overwhelming feeling of importance that he now possessed a whole skin to boast about when he should meet his people. He was wealthier now than any hairy man had ever been, or at least he would be when he had skinned the tiger. He was eager now for dawn to come so that he could begin that important task.
The first gray light of morning found Og searching about among the stones in the canyon for one that would make a satisfactory skinning knife. He searched long and hard, for he was beginning to appreciate the value of good tools, and he meant to have a knife that would do its work well. Again he was fortunate in finding a piece of flint; a large scale this time, that had a sharper edge than any knife that Og had ever possessed. He was elated, and he resolved, as he admired the cutting edge and tried it on the handle of his hammer, that he would not throw it away as most hairy people did the sharp stones they used for the same purpose. Instead, he would keep it, and perhaps, by chipping it as he had done the hammer head, he could make it even more serviceable.
With the coming of the first rays of the sun Og was bending over the prostrate form of the huge tiger. He had rolled the boulder partly away and dragged the carcass out from its death trap. Then he proceeded with his skinning, while the wolf cubs looked silently on or explored among the rocks for small animals on which they might breakfast.
It was at this work that the wondering and thoroughly frightened tree people found him when they began to gather timidly about the entrance of the canyon. And when they saw the sabre-toothed one stretched prone on the ground with the one that they had meant to be his victim bending over him they squealed in amazement and jabbered among themselves, but none of them, not even old Scar Face, had the courage to enter the canyon and come near him.
OG paid small heed to the tree people who gathered at a safe distance to watch him. This task of skinning the great cave tiger was too absorbing and too important. He worked diligently until the sun was overhead before he had the huge pelt removed and spread out on the surface of a sun-warmed rock to dry. But he did not stop there. He fancied the long knife-like claws of the great cat, and with his stone hammer he broke all of these off. He wanted the sabres, too; the long tusks that protruded from the upper jaw and were almost as long as his forearm. With his stone hammer he broke these off and laid them aside with his other trophies.
All this accomplished, he sat down to rest and suck the blood from his messy fingers. It was then that he realized for the first time that he was hungry. But the strong, unsavory cat flesh did not appeal to him, despite the fact that he had not tasted meat for several days. With his flint knife he hacked a muscle from the carcass and tried it. It was not pleasant and he flung it to the wolf cubs.
They devoured it greedily and turned to the carcass for more, and Og knew that with the help of the vultures that already circled overhead or sat hunched on nearby rocks, they would soon leave nothing but gnawed bones to remind the tree people of the terrible cave-dwelling tiger.
Og knew that with the help of the vultures that already circled overhead, they would soon leave nothing but gnawed bones to remind the tree people of the horrible cave-dwelling tiger.
HIS hunger recalled to Og that the tree people had provided him with food. He looked out toward the mouth of the canyon, where a number of them were gathered in little groups in trees and on the tops of rocks, watching him curiously, and he noted with a sense of satisfaction that as he watched them they became uneasy, and chattered among themselves, and some that had ventured a little too far from the security of the trees scrambled back and took refuge among the palm tops, nor did they jabber at him derisively as ape people did at hairy folk when they felt safely out of reach. They held him in awe and Og knew that his triumph over Sabre-Tooth was accountable for it. Even the powerful Scar Face and his band of warriors moved to a distance with the others.
Og was elated, nor was be slow to take advantage of this new situation. With a rolling walk that had about it a faint suggestion of swagger, be walked to the mouth of the canyon and looked at the flat rock on which the tree people had each day placed the fruit and nuts that were his food. It was bare. He looked at it in silence for a moment then up among the palms at the peering, chattering tree people. In the fiercest voice he could muster he began shouting for food, at the same time brandishing his stone hammer.
Much to his satisfaction his easily interpreted actions caused a commotion among the ape men and forthwith Scar Face and a number of others began chattering loudly, and presently the whole horde was scurrying about among the tree tops. Og, with the demeanor of a tyrant, which he already felt himself to be, walked back to his tiger skin and sat there watching, and before long he was gratified to sec timid tree folk hurrying toward the food rock with armfuls of fruit, and it was not long before they had deposited there a pile of food that was staggering in its proportions. It contained more than Og could eat in many days, all of which gave the primitive boy grim satisfaction. He was fast beginning to feel his importance as the slayer of the cave tiger and it delighted him to see that the tree people were awed to fear by his prowess.
STILL, his fast developing egotism did not overbalance his discretion, for that night and many nights thereafter he and the wolf cubs sought out protecting rocks on the sloping sides of the canyon, behind which to crouch and slumber.
Nor did the fact that he was held in awe and feared by the tree people incline him toward being a bully and a despot. Og was developing too swiftly for that. There were too many things he wanted to do and he did not want to spare time in making life miserable for Scar Face and his people through their fear of him. True, he did demand that they bring him food, but that was no hardship. Indeed, it soon became apparent that this was in the nature of a pleasure for the ape people, for daily scores of them gathered among the rocks and trees at the mouth of the carryon and watched him as he went about accomplishing the things that he had set out to do. They watched him with the curiosity that only ape folk can display, and many of them tried to imitate him in some of the things he did. Especially was this true of Scar Face, the leader of the tree folk. When Og chipped stone diligently for half a day, Scar Face and several of the other tree men, after watching him in silence for a time, would get two stones and knock them together too and watch the result curiously. But, of course, they never achieved anything from their effort for they had no object in knocking the stones together in the first place, save that of imitating the hairy boy.
Og spent a great deal of time in knocking stones together, for he had a real object. He was determined to find out how to get the fire from the black rock into such form that it would be of service to him as a protector and as a servant to furnish him light and heat and cook his food. Og thought longingly of the fire-scorched horse that he had first eaten and he was determined, if it were possible, to once again eat cooked meat.
For that reason he spent days at a time working with the piece of flint rock that gave off the sparks each time he struck it against another stone. He tried every way he could think of to catch the fire, but not once was his patient effort rewarded with even the tiniest spiral of smoke. Still he kept at his work with determination. Time and again he held sticks against the black stone and watched the results eagerly. He struck the stone against the stick for hours at a time until he wore out the stick, yet; the result was always the same. When he struck stone against stone he always got sparks, yet neither stone would catch fire. Og worked and worried and fretted and tired his brain out trying to accomplish the thing he desired.
HE had set himself up a veritable workshop there in the canyon, under the shelter of some big boulders. There he kept his precious tiger skin, and the claws and teeth, and there he kept choice pieces of wood that he hoped some day to make into torches, his hammers - for he had made several now that he had found an interest in making things - his stone knives, for he had wrought several of these with patient chipping, and numerous pieces of flint that he had gathered up about the canyon. Always he sat on a smooth flat rock to work at his stone chipping, and beneath this rock was a litter of stone chips and, most conspicuous of all, a pile of splintered wood, some of it ground almost to powder as a result of his almost incessant beating of flint against wood and wood against flint in his vain hope of transferring the sparks from the stone to a torch.
Of course Og did not realize it, but this litter of powdery splinters of wood was the key to the solution of his problem, and doubtless he would have gone on with his patient experimenting for days, with his fire material close at hand, had it not been for a fortunate accident. The hairy boy found a new piece of the black fire rock, a large piece, twice as big as his head, and he had carried it, from a remote corner of the canyon back to his workshop beside the flat stone. Here he dropped it on the ground and surveyed it reflectively. It was much too large to do anything with and he realized that pieces of it could be more easily handled. He decided to break it into fragments and forthwith he smote it a terrific blow with his stone hammer.
A perfect shower of sparks and a ruined stone hammer rewarded him, for the flint was a terrifically hard smooth-grained piece and not easily broken. Og looked at the shattered hammer-head ruefully, and then at the flint. Then he gave a sharp cry of astonishment, for, behold, from the pile of litter, from the powdered wood splinters, a tiny spiral of smoke curled up, while a spark glowed before his eyes.
For a moment Og did not know just what to do. Suddenly he recalled that this fire thing was a peculiar animal that could he both killed and brought to life by breathing on it. But before he could put this thought into action the wisp of smoke went out, and the glowing spark became black. In vain did he try to nurse it back to life. It was gone.
Og's disappointment was overwhelming for a little while. He just crouched there in dejection, looking at the pile of splinters and wood dust. But presently he aroused himself and began to ponder the matter. He ran his fingers through the wood dust and realized that it was soft and pulpy. He remembered, too, how much more readily soft wood had burned in his first fire, and he wondered whether that was not the solution of the whole problem.
He let the great piece of flint lie where it was and, finding a heavy stone that he could conveniently handle, he crashed it down upon the fire rock with as much force as he had used when he had shattered his stone hammer. Once more there was a shower of sparks and once more a tiny spiral of smoke began to rise from the litter of wood dust. Og was quickly on his knees this time breathing on the glowing spark. And, as he blew against it softly, he saw it increase in size and grow brighter and the smoke wisp grow larger and larger.
Suddenly, with a tiny explosive sound, the live coal leaped into a flame and Og, with a cry of elation, hastily began to feed it wood splinters until presently his whole heap of litter was alive and burning and a smoke column was rising skyward. That night was the first since the beginning of time that a camp fire glowed in the canyon, and the tree people from the safety of the tall palm trees watched it with a sense of fear, for to them it seemed like the eye of another giant, more formidable even than the cave tiger, looking at them through the blackness.
OG had learned the secret of fire.
Not content with having kindled flames by accident, the hairy boy continued his experimenting with the black fire stone. True, the accidental lighting of the wood dust litter revealed the secret to him, but even after that it was some time before he really felt that he had mastered the situation to the extent where he could kindle flames whenever he chose, providing he possessed the fire stone.
Again and again he scraped wood dust and tiny splinters from a piece of soft wood with his flint knife, then bent over them with two fire stones, learning the art of striking the sparks so that they would leap from the stones into the powdered wood and immediately start glowing. But finally he achieved what to him was perfection in the art of fire building and he was extremely happy.
The fire, of course, was a mystery to the tree people. That was evident from the way they gathered about the entrance of the canyon and watched it curiously. Some of them even overcame their fear of the canyon and the hairy boy to the extent of coming well inside the rocky declivity and sitting there among the boulders for long periods, just blinking solemnly at the flames and chattering softly among themselves. Chief among those who mustered courage enough to come close to the flames was old Scar Face. He finally reached the point where he would sit for hours there and stare first at the fire and then at the hairy boy with an expression of profound thought.
Indeed, so often did Scar Face and certain others gather in a circle about Og's fire, that after a time there developed a certain intimacy between the hairy boy and the ape men. They lost their fear of this mighty one who had slain the great cave tiger and who had proved himself master of the Fire Demon, and in its place developed a wholesome respect for him and his ability. Scar Face and all of his lusty fighting men would often gather in a semicircle at a respectful distance from Og, and watch him with a strange expression in their eyes, which Og gradually perceived was admiration, the admiration of loyal subjects to a chieftain, and Og soon realized that, if he cared to, he could be the ruler of the tree people, with Scar Face and his warriors as his devoted henchmen.
But for some strange reason this did not appeal to Og. To be ruler of the tree people was not to his liking. He had watched them closely during the time he had been among them. and he had found them tremendously interesting. So like the hairy men they were in many ways, and yet so different.
Og had always looked upon them as animals, but he perceived now, as a result of his intimacy with Scar Face, that they were not, yet they were not men as he knew them. They had a language that consisted of grunts and querulous chattering but it was so crude that Og could see that they had great difficulty in expressing even the simplest thought. They could think. Og realized this when he analyzed their reasons for bringing him to the canyon a prisoner. Scar Face, who represented the height of development among them, had doubtless thought out the idea of making him a sacrifice to the cave tiger. They built themselves homes, too, crude though they were, and some among them, notably Scar Face and his warriors, occasionally carried weapons in the form of clubs, though they often forgot that they possessed them, as they forgot many other things.
HERE Og could see was one of two distinct differences between the tree people and his own race. Most hairy men (although there were still many who were not capable) followed an idea or a task to its conclusion. If a hairy man wanted to find a smooth round stone for a new stone hammer-head, he usually set about searching for it and searched until he found it, although there were some even among his people who could be turned aside from such a quest and made to forget all about the object they had started after by a bit of bright quartz, or the discovery of a bird's nest or something else that might amuse them.
This was the way of all the tree people. They no sooner found one thing that interested them, than they dropped it for another. Og perceived, however, that this was not entirely true of some of them, especially old Scar Face, who seemed to have more steadfastness of purpose than most of his kind.
Yet Og could see that some of them, especially their leader, were making slow progress. Their interest in his fire and all that he did was evidence of this to him. The fact that Scar Face imitated him in everything he did, to the best of his ability, also helped Og in this conclusion. The scarred one walked more upright than the rest of his kind. He carried a club for a weapon more frequently than the rest and he always watched Og's stone hammers with interest whenever he came close to his fire. Og noted this fact and one day, more out of curiosity than anything else, he gave Scar Face one of his best weapons.
Og needed no interpreter to understand from the grunts and gibberish that Scar Face was grateful. Indeed, he was so delighted that his antics were childish. He paraded before his warriors with the hammer over his shoulder, and smote trees and bushes for no other reason than just to show off his weapon, and his warriors were duly impressed.
Scar Face watched with interest, too, Og's handling of the fire, and often when he sat near it he would toss a stick onto the flames, and chatter excitedly when he saw the flames consume his contribution. The fact that Og always carried a smoking and flaming firebrand about with him wherever he went impressed old Scar Face, too, for he perceived that that was equally as important a weapon as the stone hammer.
First he had a wholesome respect for the fire, although for some reason he did not fear it as many of his people did. This respect for the flames increased when he inadvertently stepped on a hot coal that had popped some distance from Og's stone fireplace. But he could appreciate its virtues, too. Its biggest appeal to him was the fact that it dispelled the darkness of night, the darkness which he and his people feared. It gave light and he knew that monsters like the sabre-toothed tiger, the cave-lion, and other beasts of prey shunned light and hunted only during the hours of darkness.
HE appreciated its warmth, too, for it was a delightful sensation to crouch within its circle of radiance and feel the warmth against his hairy coat. The rites that Og performed over the flames each time he killed a rabbit or some other small animal, and the transition of the red and bloody meat to rich savory brown food, was something he could not understand.
He often gnawed at the few bones that the wolf cubs left and found that the taste was pleasing, and several times Og flung him a small piece of cooked meat, which he sampled and ate with great gusto. Scar Face and his people were not meat eaters like the hairy men, for the chief reason that they had never had the ability or the weapons with which to procure this kind of food. They never shunned birds' nests, however, and small rodents that they were able to catch, for these they always gobbled down with relish. Scar Face soon perceived that flesh, and especially cooked flesh, was well worth the eating and, as a result of his introduction to this form of food by Og, he was to become the first meat eater among the tree people.
Soon after he had sampled the cooked food that Og gave him, and some time after he had acquired the stone hammer, he took to hunting as diligently as Og did, and the first day he was rewarded by killing one of the many rabbit-like animals that were abundant in the pleasant valley, and, after surprising it and crushing it with a blow of the stone hammer, he brought the mangled form to Og and told him gruntingly that he'd like to have the hairy boy cook it for him.
Og obligingly skinned it and cooked it, and Scar Face devoured it with much smacking and sucking. The bones he tossed to the wolf cubs as he had seen Og do, and when he finished he licked his fingers in imitation of the boy.
After that Scar Face wanted a fire of his own. For some time he tried to make Og understand his desires and finally, when the hairy boy did comprehend him, he flatly refused by a vigorous shaking of his head. The disappointment of Scar Face was very evident. He sulked and grew ugly. He showed his teeth at Og and even clutched the handle oŁ his stone hammer menacingly. It was a show of belligerence that the hairy boy could not tolerate for a moment, and angrily Og snatched up a burning fire brand and hurled it at the ape man with such accuracy that it hit him in the pit of the stomach and singed the hair and burned the flesh until old Scar Face shrieked with pain and ran away clutching at his paunch and squealing with pain.
Og sat by his fire and grinned at the tree man's discomfort, for although he was perfectly willing to have old Scar Face possess a stone hammer he was not at all inclined to share with him his most valuable of all weapons, the fire brands. Og knew now that he could drive off the fiercest of the hunting animals, even the cave tiger, with the fire brands, and he knew, too, that if it ever became necessary he could hold Scar Face and his whole clan at bay. Under those circumstances he was not willing to put any of the tree people in possession of the weapon he depended upon most.
Scar Face nursed his burns, off in the bush, and later he tried as best he knew how to make a fire for himself. He got stones and a litter of wood, as he had watched Og do, and he clashed the stones together until they broke in fragments, but not a single spark of fire did he ever produce.
Yet the desire to have a fire of his own still persisted, and although the leader of the tree folk never came near Og's fire again while the hairy boy was present, he watched the actions of Og from a hiding place at the mouth of the canyon. For several days he lurked there, hidden even from his own people, and finally the opportunity that he was hoping for arrived.
Og, as was his custom, lighted a fire brand from the flames, and with his stone hammer and some throwing stones in his hands, and the wolf dogs at his heels, started out across the pleasant valley on a hunting trip to replenish his larder, Scar Face, from his hiding place, watched him until he was well out of sight. Then, marking that none of his own people were watching his actions either, he made his way craftily into the canyon and, slipping from rock to rock, reached the place where Og's fire still burned in the rude stone fireplace. From wood that he found there he made himself a torch as he had often seen the hairy boy do, and dipped it into the still smoldering ashes, he breathed upon it after the fashion of Og and presently tiny flames appeared at the end of his torch. He had a fire brand, too!
He held it up and watched it with eager, yet fearful eyes. Then he did a curious little dance of elation, as if he sought to tell himself in that way that he was as great a man as Og. But quite suddenly he stopped dancing, for he realized that the owner of the fire might presently appear again. Then, too, for some curious reason, he did not want even his own people to know that he possessed this fire torch. He glanced about cautiously, and stealthily made his way out of the canyon and, holding the burning torch at arm's length as he had seen the hairy boy do, he slipped into the forests and disappeared.
Back Previous Next