MANY heads bobbed out of cliffside doorways and many curious and suspicious pairs of eyes watched Og and his father Wab climb the narrow and winding trail up the cliff's face to the miserable, dingy little cave that had been allotted to the blind man, because he was unable to fight for a bigger and better one. Strange grunting calls were passed from one doorway to another too and Og understood them all. He knew too that those who called were worried and frightened; indeed he could see the troubled expressions on some of the faces and he noted with interest that many trembled, and each cave mouth as be passed grew empty, the inmates taking to the farthest and darkest corners for they feared him and his fire brand, and his tiger skin that he had draped boastfully over his shoulders until it hung like a cape with the long tail dragging on the ground behind him.
It was like a triumphal procession for Og and he felt proud and elated over the whole affair. He was a man. He was a great man. He was important. Even Gog, the grizzled old leader, shrank from him with a grunt and his children scuttled into the cave like rabbits as be passed. Gog's wife, too, whimpered and clung to her husband.
Og could not help but grunt ominously and scowl as he passed the doorway of the old chief, for he remembered, as did many others, unwarranted cuffs and kicks that the savage old man had dealt out because of his strength and his position in the tribe. Gog, still the valiant old fighter that he had always been, scowled and growled in return and muttered ugly things under his breath, but still he shrank from this hairy one who was clothed in the skin of Sabre Tooth and carried a mysterious and fearful wand of fire.
When Og and Wab reached the crevice in the cliff that the blind hunter called home Og looked about with a frown on his face.
"So this is all that Wab, the mighty hunter, has to live in; Wab, my father, the man who gave his eyes to the Tiger to protect others. It shall not be so. I, Og, Son of Fire, speak." (Og's chest puffed. out slightly and he swaggered his shoulders just a little as he proclaimed the last.)
"It is mean enough as a cave," spoke Wab, "but who am I now that I should have better quarters? I am of less use than a woman. I cannot hunt. I am blind. I am a handicap to the tribe. Soon I must die unless"
"Die? Never while I am by your side," stormed Og.
"You will bring me food, then, O Son of, Fire?"
"Yes, and food such as you have never eaten, O my Father. Food from the Fire. Food that is tender and brown and pleasant to the taste. Food that the Fire Demon has laid his hands on."
Wab shivered and looked frightened.
"Nay, such food is only for those who have been reborn of fire. It frightens me. I cannot want to eat it. Bring me only bloody food that drips. Such as I used to eat much of when still my eyes were whole. And bring it soon. For many daylights and many nights I have not tasted food that drips. I, Wab, have crawled around on fours like a rat seeking scraps that others have thrown to me, old scraps that have laid in the sun till they smell and bear maggots, old bones that have been sucked and gnawed clean. Such has been my food until now my strength is the strength of a baby. Soon I must die. When I live in night always then I must crawl off among the rocks and stop trying to live."
"Then you, can see a little?" cried Og, peering into the old man's face.
"Yes, I see as at nightfall with this one eye. I can see the sun, and trees, and rocks dimly. I can see you as a shadow. But this fearsome wand you carry, that I heard others chatter about when you came, I can see. It licks out like the tongue of a serpent. It has a terrible breath, and a stench more than that of the creeping animal. It frightens me."
"Fear it not, my Father. It is my servant; my weapon; my friend. I am glad that you can see its licking tongues for then you will soon know it better. Behold, I will make it warm you. It will fill this miserable cave with its breath and you will like it. You will sit in it and nod as you do in the sunlight. Then, while you nod, I will find food for us both and we will. eat together and be happy. And after that a great cave, a cave that fits both Wab and Og and his Fire, and hairy men shall speak of us in whispers and fear us when we roar."
Saying this, Og began to gather together wood and soon in the doorway of the cave a fine fire was crackling while Wab the hunter crouched in the corner and listened to the crackling sound, and smelled the smoke, and saw faintly the licking tongues, and tried to be brave in spite of his natural fear.
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