Og, Boy of Battle
Chapter 14, "Tracks in the Sand" 140-149
Chapter 15, "The Land of Great Turtles" 150-163
|An Adventure on the Shore of the Great Sea |
Which Brought Another Discovery to Og and Ru
illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull
THE world had turned to water. Moreover this world of water was trying to turn upside down At least that is the way it seemed to Og and Ru. The log on which they crouched and clung fast with hands and feet was pitching and tossing and rolling heavily from side to side threatening at any moment to throw them into the water. The eyes of the Hairy boys were big with fear. They were cold and wet and worried. They shivered and their teeth chattered, and Ru made strange whining sounds in his throat that annoyed Og. Yet he could not blame Ru for he wanted to do the same thing himself, sensing, however, that if he should give way to his fears Ru would become even more terror-stricken. Their fear would weaken them, and he knew that they needed all the strength they possessed of both body and mind to come through this new and terrible danger that threatened them.
The danger had come upon them suddenly, out of the night, it seemed to Og. For many suns they had been floating down the broad river on their log from which they had broken all the branches. They had started out from above the cliff village to look for a new home for the tribe of Hairy men, for since the attack upon them by the gorillas and the gruesome outcome of the battle, the Hairy men were all afraid to venture back to their cliff abode. Instead, the whole colony lay in hiding in the great cave beside the old volcano, while Og and Ru had gone down the river to find a new cave-scarred cliff or some other dwelling-place for the tribe. Through the big swamp they had paddled and floated, but nowhere could they find good firm land to set foot upon; nowhere was there a big tree to climb into and hide themselves at night. Everywhere was waving grass and water and, worst of all, the river split up into many rivers.
For three suns had they floated never able to find a shore, never able to get food. And then on the last day the worst of all calamities befell them, for Og discovered that even fresh water to drink was denied them in this land of new terrors.
Thirsty, he scooped some of the water up in his hands as he had done each time he wanted to drink and sipped it, but hastily spat it out again and grunted his disgust. It was bitter and salty. And since Og knew nothing of sea water he became greatly alarmed. It was indeed a strange new world that they had drifted into and as night came on he and Ru huddled together on the log hungry, thirsty, and sick and a great fear crept over them. They wondered whether perhaps they were drifting on toward death.
AND with the dawn they were certain of it, for they were aroused from their sheep by the strangely uncomfortable movement of their log. It began to pitch and toss and roll in a manner that frightened them and the two Hairy boys opened their eyes to look out upon a great stretch of restless blue water that reached into nothingness. Og could see that they were approaching the end of the world. There was the rim out there where the sky joined the water and if they drifted that far they would certainly fail off into space; into eternity. Behind them were the broad stretches of savannahs they had come through. But to their left and right reaching out like arms into the water were long low-lying strips of sandy beach crowned with palm trees. Ahead of them was an appallingly vast and terrible stretch of water; water that rolled and heaved and splashed; angry water; and as Og clung fast to the log he wondered whether the water was angry at them for venturing onto it. Perhaps it was trying to tear them off from the log, suck them down; swallow them up in its rage.
As they drifted on out of the mouth of the river into the ocean the swells became stronger and more violent and the log pitched and tossed in terrible fashion, sometimes rolling completely over, making the boys scramble hard to keep on the top side of it. It became a terrible ordeal for them. Always they had to scramble and cling fast. More than once they were rolled entirely under and came up terrified and pulling and blowing like porpoises as they scrambled back unto the rolling log again. These duckings were awful ordeals, for despite the fact that Og and Ru had become more familiar with water than any of their race, still they retained the instinctive terror of their kind for the horrors that the depths might hide.
But soon the waves became bigger and stronger and their duckings were more frequent. They lost their spears and paddles. Once Og, when the log rolled more violently than usual was thrown clear of it and went sprawling into the water to sink down into the dark green swirling depths. He was frightened when he saw bubbles rushing upward past his eyes. Instinct told him to hold his breath, and kick and strike out and fight his way back to the surface again. The log with Ru on it, watching for him with frightened face, had drifted some distance away and Og hardly knowing what he did struck out, and thrashing the water blindly, madly forced himself toward it. And in his frantic fear he discovered that he swam, swam as he had seen water animals swim. And as he scrambled back upon the log again he could but exclaim at his own achievement. Indeed he was as surprised as Ru was when he realized what he had done.
Much of his fear of water slowly disappeared then, and he did not mind so much when the log rolled him off again. He talked encouragingly to Ru, too, and told him how easy it was to stay on top of the water, and finally when the log got so unmanageable that neither of them could stay on it both let themselves down into the water and with an arm around the log kicked and kept themselves afloat. Then they were not long in discovering that if they both kicked in the same direction they could move the log along even though the rough water did make it roll and toss madly.
The waves were moving them toward one of the strips of sandy beach, and weak and tired and hungry though they were, the two boys, knowing that they had a fighting chance kicked vigorously and urged the log forward. Slowly they made progress toward one of the long palm-clad strips of beach, until, before long, they felt firm ground under their feet and letting go their log canoe they staggered ashore and sank down upon the warm sand exhausted but happy.
OG WAS the first to revive sufficiently to sit up and look about. And as he looked closely at the trees that fringed the wide beach he gave a glad cry and staggered to his feet, calling Rut to follow him. Up the beach they scrambled and Og reaching the nearest tall palm paused under it and looked longingly upward. In the foliage he saw a cluster of green fruit which he at once recognized as a hollow nutlike fruit that he had eaten before. He remembered, too, that this fruit had a strange liquid inside; a sweetish liquid that would quench the burning thirst that was upon them; that made their lips crack and tongues feel thick. On the ground under one of tile trees he found several windfalls, and pouncing upon these, he eagerly broke the husk away with his stone hammer that still fortunately hung to his belt. And then, while Ru watched him curiously, he broke the nut from the shuck and cracked the hard shell. Then putting the crack to his lips he sucked at it eagerly and the thirsty Ru saw him swallow the liquid that drained from it. Ru needed no further encouragement to follow his example and soon they were both sucking at cocoanuts until their thirst was entirely slaked. Then Og broke open one of the nuts and by devouring great mouthfuls of it showed Ru that the white inside meat was good to eat.
And when they were no longer hungry and thirsty, and when the sun had dried them, they set out to explore the beach. All that they had left to them in the form of weapons were their stone hammers which had been securely held in their belts. But they had not gone far up the beach when they both wished that they had more in the way of weapons, for in the soft sand above the driftwood that marked the tide line they discovered footprints that startled them and made them draw closer together and look furtively about.
In the sand they saw the great round foot-marks of a huge sabre-toothed tiger. But that was not all. There were other footprints there. Og made out the trail of a hyena and the great flat prints of the monster cave bear. There were the trails of smaller animals, too, and the hoofmarks of a band of three-toed horses that must have romped along the beach not long since.
And then they came across a trail that puzzled them tremendously. It was the strangest trail they had ever seen, made by queerly shaped feet set far apart while between the footprints were signs of a heavy body having been dragged across the sand. Og and Ru studied these trails very hard for there were several of them on the beach. And as they studied them they found to their amazement that each trail began and ended at the tide mark showing plainly that the strange animal, whatever it was, had come out of the water and returned to it again. Could this be some terrible water monster? One of the trails they followed well up the beach and there they found unmistakable signs that the animal, whatever it was, had dug a hole in the sand and covered it again. Curious, Og and Ru dug into the sand too to see if, perhaps, this strange creature had not come ashore to bury something. And as they scooped out the sand with their hands they suddenly discovered scores of strange looking eggs. Both Og and Ru knew what eggs were. They had foraged from many a bird's-nest in their day and the discovery of these eggs caused them to forget for a moment the creature that had left them there as they eagerly snatched them out of the sand and began to feed upon them.
Up the beach they wandered, finding strange sun-whitened shells and other curious objects that attracted their attention. Down near the water-line Og found several huge clams and since, in a way, they resembled cocoanuts, he cracked one of them open and tasted the meat inside. And it was so delicious and appetizing that they feasted on all they could find of these too, and thereafter every shell they came across they cracked open sampling the contents. By mid-day they had so gorged themselves that they must needs sit down in the warm sun and rest. And they were so comfortably happy that Ru sprawled at full length on his back on the white sand and promptly fell asleep.
BUT Og's mind was too busy and too full of interesting thoughts and speculation on this new and strange land they had blundered into, to sleep just then.
What was this strange beast that came up out of the water. What could it be? It was strong and big he could tell from the trail it left. Was it as hideous and ruthless as the crocodile? Was it quick and fast and stealthy as the great tiger? Og wondered and tried to form a mental picture of it. But this was hard work. He must needs lie down as Ru had done while he thought. The warm sand felt good to his back. It was hard work to think anyway. Why trouble just now when he was so comfortable. Og closed his eyes and presently he was asleep, too.
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 savannahs, 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. They came on seemingly 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 being 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 sea turtles.
Soon the noise 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 the 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 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 had worked their way up from the water they had avoided these strange creatures that lay stretched on the beach, and moved about them in a wide circle. But as the beach became more crowded this circle narrowed, and as the turtles fought more viciously 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 al his legs, and in desperation Og jumped aside and swung a blow at its head. The stone hammer crashed 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, lay about him with his stone hammer, killing several of the turtles that were crowding in upon them. But the stand that they were making and the number that 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 open ready to strike, ready to snap off an arm or a leg as easily as Og would bite through a piece of tender meat.
Before it was within striking distance Ru took a step forward and swung 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 so 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.
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 get even to his knees the heavy body of the turtle fell across Ra'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.
So swiftly had Ru been knocked down and pinned beneath the turtle that Og stood petrified with horror for the moment; stood and stared 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 and 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 bony skull and sinking up to the handle into the 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 dove 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 backs 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 freed himself only just in time.
Finally be reached a clump of cocoanut palms. And with Ru still hanging across his shoulders, climbed to the safety and the shelter of fern-like 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.
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-toothed tiger as it 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 dared venture out upon the beach. 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 a human being had ever adopted. And that for centuries 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.
With a cry of triumph he held the great shall up against his chest.
Although he did not realize it, he had devised the first shield.
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 another of the smaller turtles 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.
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 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 these they converted into knives and capital spear points, a labor to which they devoted the entire forenoon, before they re-entered the forest
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