Og, Son of Fire
The Ice Monster
By Irving Crump
illustrated by Jack Murray
OG'S eyes were not so intently fixed on the goat trail in the snow that he did not see the beginning of the avalanche that threatened to carry him and his companions to destruction. He had been half expecting it, and was watching for it. Indeed in anticipation of it he had laboriously thought out safeguards against just such a calamity before they undertook to follow that narrow goat trail over the snow ridge. As one precaution he had persuaded Ru and Tao and Big Tooth to link themselves together by making a life line of their buckskin girdles, the forward end of which he tied about his own waist. Thus he reasoned that if one or even two of the party slipped on that treacherous slope the others might save them from plunging to their death. He had carefully planned their course across the slope to take advantage of every craggy outcropping of rock that reared itself above the white and gleaming carpet up there above the clouds. These rocks presented islands of safety to which they might cling if their weight should start a snow slide, as he very much feared it would.
As luck would have it, however, they were far from the nearest and biggest of these craggy outcroppings, when Og saw a sinister crack begin to open in the smooth white slope above them, and with a sensation of horror he became aware of the fact that the heavy snow under their feet was slowly beginning to move. With a shout of fear and admonition to his companions to hurry he dug his feet in deeper and tried to hasten across the slope toward a mass of gray granite.
But tied together as they were, with the snow sliding under their feet, it was hard to make progress and to make it still more difficult Ru, the clumsy one, stumbled, then fell and floundered up to his waist before Og and Tao could yank him upright again.
The snow was sliding faster by that time, and more and more cracks were opening above and on either side of them. An ugly, sullen roar was audible, too, indicating that great masses of snow were breaking loose everywhere and moving down the slope. As this sound began Og had a sickening feeling that the end for all of them was very close at hand. Buried under a veritable mountain of snow they would be carried down that slope, beneath the clouds that swirled below them, to be crushed by the sheer weight of the white stuff piling down on them.
BUT though thoughts of this nature burned their way through Og's brain they did not deter him from action. If anything, they spurred him to a more desperate effort to save himself and his companions. Battling the shifting mass under him and the rush of snow that was moving down from above, his quick eyes took in their surroundings and all possible refuges. The big outcropping of rock toward which they had been moving was now hopelessly beyond their reach. The shift of the snow had carried them far below it, and Og knew they could never struggle back to it against the downward rush. But below and a little ahead of him he saw another outcropping, not so large, but large enough for them all to climb upon and wait, hoping the rush of the avalanche might spend itself before snow piled over the rock and swept them off.
Measuring distances quickly Og figured if they could keep their feet and ride down with the moving snow they could probably reach that rock. With shouts of encouragement he told his companions to keep upright and be ready to seize hold of the crag as they were swept downward. At the same time he tried to struggle forward just a little to be in a good position to reach the rock if the others were not able to. He reasoned that if he could get a secure grip on the outcropping he might hold fast long enough for his companions to work their way along the life line and reach the rock also.
But keeping their feet under them and riding down on that shifting and ever-increasing mass of snow was much more difficult than even Og anticipated. Ru again lost his footing, floundered, and had to be dragged upright. And while they were all struggling to do this Big Tooth lost his footing and, half-buried in the heavy snow, was pulled downward with such force that Og and Tao had to brace themselves hard to drag him back. And all the time the mass of shifting snow was growing larger and heavier and the rumble of the avalanche was developing into a roar as the entire mountainside got into movement.
Down the slope they were carried, their speed increasing slowly but surely as the roar of the avalanche mounted. Snow from above came down in heavier masses. The air was filled with whirling flakes and powdery windrifts. The downward rush became breathtaking. Og saw that they were completely at the mercy of the moving mass. He saw, too, that by the time they reached the rock that split the avalanche below them, they would be moving so fast that it would be a question whether they could cling fast to it, or be swept past it, or even over it, with little chance to save themselves.
Desperately Og floundered forward to make more certain to reach that rock, when suddenly, with a yell. Ru went down carrying Tao with him. A moment the two of them floundered, hips deep in the moving mass, while Big Tooth desperately fought to keep his feet and haul them up again. But the strain was too much for the sturdy Flat Head. His struggle combined with the movement of the shifting snow made him lose his balance and with a snow-muffled yell he went under the white moving mass, and Og alone of the party was left to get them all back on their feet again.
The Cave Boy knew he was incapable of that. He had not the strength to haul the three of them up against the heavy downward rush of snow. But he did think that he had a slim chance of saving himself and his companions if he could seize hold of the boulder that was at that instant flashing past. With a desperate surge forward as far as the taut life line would let him he made a wild grab for the boulder. Luck was momentarily with him. His fingers closed about a sharp outcropping and clamped fast, and the downward rush was stopped.
For a fleeting instant Og had a feeling that they could all be saved. If he could climb on that rock and brace himself he might haul the others up after him. But almost as soon as the thought was born it perished, for suddenly he felt the lifeline give way. There was a lessening of the drag at his body and at the same time snow-muffled yells came to him even above the roar of the gathering avalanche, and he knew with sickening certainty that his friends had been swept away, probably to their death. With heart heavy he began to scramble up onto the outcropping. But even as he drew himself up and gained a foothold, a tremendous mass of snow swept down from the heights above with a thunderous roar and engulfed him and the rock. Fight though he did against the sullen force of this snow, Og was literally picked up and hurled twisting and tumbling down the slope toward what he felt sure must be certain death.
Only hunger such as he and his companions had suffered for three suns now combined with other desperate circumstances had forced Og to risk the perils of that high snow country among the mountains that Big Tooth called the top of the world. Still trying to get away from Watusi, the witch doctor, and the natives of this strange land, the Cave People had traveled fast along jungle trail and across grass-grown plains, always conscious of the fact that behind them somewhere was a horde of naked brown-skinned men who followed doggedly after them bent on capturing them and bringing them back to their village for some sinister reason. They were determined people these Boomerang Men who pursued them so swiftly that Og and his companions had little chance to stop and hunt for food animals. Indeed, the pursuit was so hot and so close at times that Og in desperation laid a. course directly to a chain of snow-capped mountains that reared their white heads high above the clouds. Up over the top of this range he decided to lead his followers in the hope that the snow and discomfort of mountain traveling would discourage the Boomerang Men, or that if they did follow that far they might come to grief up there on those snowy heights or get lost in the great banks of whirling vapors that rolled around the mountain tops.
BUT this high country traveling was difficult for the Cave People. Above timberline and deep in the snow district they found nothing at all in the way of animal life to serve as food. Desperately they watched each crag and ledge for signs of goats but saw very few. And to add to their misery they found that this mountain range was a far bigger one than they had anticipated. Above the clouds they saw line upon line of snow peaks extending in all directions and Og realized that it would take them days to reach the far slope of the range and drop down into jungle country again. However, having set their course that way they dared not turn back now, so they pushed on.
With their third day's traveling fortunately they came across a well-worn goat trail in the snow which gave them hope of finding meat somewhere ahead. Eagerly Og and his companions hurried on through deepening snow only to discover that the goat trail led across a very treacherous slope before it seemed to dip down below the cloud line. Og, as he surveyed this trail, was fully aware of the chance of starting a great snow slide on that slope, but again the realization that they had shaped their course in that direction and that ahead of them somewhere at the end of that trail were to be found goats which meant food, made all of them, even Og, willing to take almost any kind of risk to push on.
So Og made careful preparations for the trip across the treacherous, snowy slope hoping that any slide they might start would not amount to a. great deal. Never did he expect an avalanche of such proportions as the one that swept his companions away from him and hurled him down the mountain in a mad plunge that seemed certain to be his end.
For ages it seemed he was carried downward by that torrent of sliding snow, sometimes buried deep under the heavy white mass and sometimes hurled to the surface where he clutched, madly, wildly for something to break his downward plunge. Battered, bruised, and only half-conscious he finally came to an abrupt stop to lie spent and motionless, hemmed in on all sides by smothering whiteness. But when the fact beat home to his whirling brain that he was no longer rushing downward at dizzy speed, and when he realized that the roar of the avalanche no longer thundered in his ears it dawned upon him that at least he had survived the great snow slide and that he was buried somewhere at the foot of the long slope down which he had plunged.
Twisting, turning, and fighting back the smother of whiteness that engulfed him he began to claw his way upward in the direction of daylight again and was soon relieved to find that he broke through into a flood of brilliant sunshine. For a moment he had not the slightest idea where he was, but as he stood up and looked around he realized that he had been carried down into a great valley between towering mountain heights. It was a valley through which wound a great river of solid ice; a glacier formed by thousands of years of snow slides from those mountains packed down in the narrow valley. At the moment, however, that glacier nor any other part of his surroundings interested Og, for his first thought was of his companions who had been carried down ahead of him. They were unquestionably buried under this mass of snow as he had been. But were they dead or were they still alive and trying to dig their way out as he had done?
EAGERLY he looked over the great snow pile and a moment later he gave a cry of relief and began floundering forward toward a point where he saw a great heaving and struggling under the surface. Before he could reach it, however, he saw one huge hairy hand break through, then another, and the next instant the head and face of Big Tooth heaved upward with a loud "wush-h-h-h" as he flung snow in all directions.
"Big Tooth!" cried Og. "Alive, too! This is good!"
"Whoo! This Big Tooth all right but him not very much alive," grunted the Flat Head. "Hi-yi-yi! Him near break to pieces when him come down that mountain."
"But you are alive. Big Tooth. And no bones broken either. Where are Ru and Tao?"
"Whoo! Big Tooth tied fast to 'um," said the Flat Head as he began to haul at the life line about his waist. Og had forgotten about the line. With a glad cry he hurled himself forward to help Big Tooth, and presently Tao and Ru were drawn to the surface, both of them more scared than injured.
"Hi-yah! What a tumble that was," sputtered Ru, spitting snow from his mouth as he got to his feet.
"Where did we land, anyway?" asked Tao, wiping snow from his eyes as he stared about.
The others became interested in their surroundings then, to discover that they were still in a world of ice and snow, but this time a place of more snow than ice. The snow slide had piled up on top of the glacier that filled the valley and all around the Cave Men were great ridges and pinnacles of pressure ice that had been forced upward by the constant grinding of the glacier.
"Whoo! This not look like such very good place," decided Big Tooth. "Not find much for eat round here."
All agreed with him, and felt the hungrier for the realization that there was less likelihood of finding food in this wilderness of ice than there was on the mountain top above. For a time all of them were dispirited, for though the Cave Men were accustomed to going a long time without food when hunting was poor, they had been forced to live on short-rations for far longer than ever before. Indeed, they were all gaunt and drawn, with most of the fat on their bodies consumed as a result of the long chase they had had.
"Whoo! Anyhow Boomerang Men not likely for follow us here way we come," said Big Tooth. To which they all laughed grimly. And as they stood there contemplating the vast icy area, from somewhere off among the many upflung pinnacles and ridges of gleaming white came the long-drawn hunger call of a wolf. The voice echoing eerily through the silence made them stiffen in apprehension and at the same time expressions of fear, an age-old reaction of all Cave Men to the call of a wolf, froze their countenances.
"Hi-yah! The wolf call," muttered Og.
"Whoo! Not help us much if wolf pack be round these parts. We not be in such good shape for sight'um of," said Big Tooth.
"Aye. And they will be hungry, too. They will attack us sure. Og, let us get away from here as soon as we can," said Ru with fear in his voice. But Tao was not so fearful.
"Was that a pack call, Og?" he queried. "No other wolves echoed that call."
"That thought strikes me, too, Tao. It sounded like a lone wolf, or at the worst a pair #151; and wolves are good eating when there is no other food in sight."
"Hi-yi-yi," exclaimed Big Tooth, "that be good thought. If him be only one wolf we get that fellah for good meal for us. This time man eat wolf when him hungry, huh, Og?"
"Aye. String your bows and get them ready, We will hunt down that wolf and he will be our dinner," decided Og, and added: "Hurry now."
WHILE they unslung their bows and strung them Og was thinking fast. That wolf call came from among the jagged pieces of ice. The creature would be hard to locate unless they spread out and hunted for it in every one of the many gullies between the ice ridges. He explained this to his companions and suggested that each take a gully and hunt toward the point whence the sound seemed to come, and the first one who came upon the wolf, or wolves if it happened to be a pair, was to yell for his companions to come and help him make sure of their meat.
This agreed, they separated quickly, stalking forward with arrows ready and bows partly drawn. Og chose a gully that wound its way between cliffs of ice many times taller than he was. It was rough going, too, for he had to climb over smaller ridges of ice and loose chunks that had tumbled down from the pinnacles above, and withal he had to proceed as stealthily as a stalking panther so as not to alarm their quarry.
For some time he moved forward, eyes watching, muscles tense, and ears alert for any sound ahead of him or for any yell that might apprise him of the fact that his companions had surprised the wolf. He had just about reached the point of believing that the wolf was not in his gully, or that it had eluded him if it had been there before, when suddenly moving around a point of ice he all but walked full into, not one wolf but four of them, a mother and three fully grown cubs.
The meeting was so unexpected that for a moment both Og and the wolves were completely nonplussed. All they could do was stand and stare at each other. The animals, however, were the first to recover their alertness. The she-wolf, still a protector of her family, though her cubs were larger than she was, with an ugly snarl flung herself into a savage leap for Og's throat, ears back, green eyes blazing and yellow fangs bared for his flesh. But Og acted almost the same instant she did. Like a flash his bow came up and twanged and as quick as a shaft of light his arrow snarled at the female. It was a shot made too quickly for accuracy, however. The arrow did not embed itself into the creature's furry chest. Instead, it furrowed her shoulder and flanks, making an ugly wound.
Og's quick eyes saw the result of his shot even as he tried to twist out the female's path and string another arrow. But though he moved fast he did not twist quick enough to avoid the wolf. Her full weight struck him in the right shoulder as she buried her teeth there, and under the impact of the leap Og went down, his bow flying from his hands as the wolf dropped on top of him. With a wild yell for help Og flung his long arms about the animal's body, one strong hand clutching for a stranglehold on the throat. And as they struggled fiercely there on the ice, suddenly the three young wolves found courage enough to hurl themselves into the battle, nipping at Og's legs and arms, or trying for the throat hold their mother had missed.
For a little while things looked bad for the Cave Man. He realized that he was no match for four wolves, though three of them were only yearling cubs. But he fought fiercely and stubbornly, kicking, twisting, and lashing out with great fists as the creatures leaped upon him. To do this, oŁ course, he had to weaken his hold on the mother wolf and she tore away from him to back off momentarily for another rush. But before she could start even such a short charge Og hurled her three youngsters from him and drew himself to his feet, at the same time twisting his stone ax from all that was left of his broken girdle. But he had scarcely gripped this stout weapon when suddenly from behind him came wild wells and a rush of feet, and at the same time the wolves turned and started headlong down the gully while arrows flashed after them.
OG'S friends, hearing his yells, had come to his rescue. But their arrows, shot in haste, were no more accurate than Og's had been, for not one of them brought down a wolf and before second arrows could leave their bows the gray marauders had vanished.
Their disappointment was pathetic. For a moment they stared in silence in the direction the animals had gone, then Og spoke in disgust:
"Hi-yah! I had a chance. If I had only hung onto the female in spite of her teeth."
"Too bad," admitted Big Tooth, "but was too many for one man. If... Hi-yi-yi!" Big Tooth leaped backward and stared at something behind Og with wide-eyed terror. Instantly Og spun about as did the others. Then as Big Tooth had done all recoiled with looks of amazement for they became aware of the fact that they were staring at the biggest and most horrible looking creature they had ever beheld. It was frozen into the ice of the glacier.
The beast was a great hump-backed dinosaur, a monster out of the past, with massive limbs, and great plates of bony armor on its body. Never before had any of them beheld anything so hideous.
"Whoo! Just look that fellah," cried Big Tooth. "Who him be and how him come to be froze in ice that way?"
For a moment Og was puzzled. But slowly the truth began to dawn on him. Ak and other old people of the tribe had often told him that long ago before man came the earth had been peopled by strange monsters. This probably was one of them. How it had died he did not know, but he soon reasoned out it had probably been swept down from above by a snow slide such as had caught them and buried so deep that it had slowly been frozen into the glacier.
This he told to his companions as they stared amazed at this ice monster. And when Og had finished Big Tooth shook his head.
"Whoo! If that be so, then if we not could dig ourself out from that ol' snow slide back there maybeso we be froze into glacier, huh, Og?" he queried.
To which Og replied that they probably would have been frozen in just as the monster had and that some day a long long time after maybe some one would find their bodies just as they had found this great lizard.
But while Og was talking Tao was inspecting the monster closer. Suddenly he let out an exclamation of surprise.
"Look, Og!" he cried. "Look here. See where the ice has been clawed away. Those wolves did that. And see here! Why, Og, they were eating some of this monster. They were eating the frozen meat. See where they chewed at this leg here."
Og looked where Tao was pointing and suddenly he let out a yell of joy.
"Hi-yah. The wolves were eating this frozen monster. And if that meat was good for wolves it is good for man. Big Tooth! Ru! Hurry with your stone axes. Chop out some of that meat. We will have a feast. Here is more meat than we would need to feed our whole Cave Village."
And with glad cries they began hacking savagely at the ice that encased the monster of the past, for they knew that their long period of hunger was over.