"Ug," said Eg, because it was the only word he knew, save for his own name.
That was more impressive than it sounded, of course, seeing as 'ug' was the only word invented, but still. He did feel it was below the dominant male of the Ooogarr tribe to be making such noises.
Of course, after his near-death experience, Eg really felt that even if the spoken language had allowed him to vocalize his thoughts and abject gratitude to the young male who'd grabbed his ankle as he tumbled head first into the river, he wouldn't have been able to manage much more than 'ug.'
The creature standing before him didn't seem to have the grasp of even that simple syllable, which was some small comfort. It appeared to be a younger male of the Enng tribe - the red and blue daubed on the blunt club the creature clutched in one hand was a dead giveaway.
Still, Eg thought to himself, drawing himself up to his not-yet-fully-erect five foot and two inches, it couldn't hurt to ask.
"Ug," said Eg again. When this drew no response, he pointed his purplewood spear at his own chest and said, 'Eg."
The creature tilted its head to the side, green eyes shining. "Ug?" it said.
Eg sighed. Definitely an Enng. He pointed the spear at himself again. "Eg," he said clearly. Then he pointed the spear at the young Enng and made what he thought might be an appropriate noise when attempting to ascertain someone's identity. "Ooo?"
Ah, a new word. Excellent.
The Enng looked from the spear up at Eg, and bared his - startlingly white - teeth in a not entirely unpleasant manner. "Arg."
"Arg?" Eg thought it best to make sure it was the creature's name, and not simply a new vowel-syllable combination essential to the evolution of mankind's spoken language.
"Arg," said Arg, still flashing his teeth at Eg. He shook the club in the air. "Arg Enng."
Eg copied Arg's toothy expression (it seemed like the polite thing to do), and brandished his spear. Gently, so as not to startle Arg. "Eg Ooogarr."
Arg grinned - which hadn't been invented yet but Eg felt sure that when it was, that's what it would be called - and reached out his hand to touch Eg's face. He patted his own furry head with the other. "Huh," he said.
Eg had no fur on his head. He'd been told, by way of an elaborate and wildly embarrassing dance performed by his predecessor Iogel, (complete with props, costumes and much tossing of Iogel's own, disproportionately hairy head) that his head-fur had all dropped out when he was a very small Ooogarr. Something to do with burning rocks and the sky - Eg wasn't entirely sure. The dance had been left very much open to interpretation.
And how did the Enng know the word for head-furr and Eg didn't?
Eg grunted and pointed his spear at the sky. "Ug," he said, and wished for a more advanced vocabulary.
Arg looked confused.
Eg crouched down instead, pulling on Arg's hand until he did the same. "Ug," he said, and drew the sky in the mud. "Ug." And three rocks, and a very small - but artistically very accomplished - representation of Eg himself, with his head-fur lying all about him on the ground.
Not that Eg knew how much head-fur he'd had to begin with, but he liked to think it was an abundant amount. At least as much as Iogel.
"Ug," said Eg again, feeling rather pleased with his efforts, and looked expectantly up at Arg.
Arg's teeth had disappeared, and instead he was looking sadly down at the drawing in the mud. "Eg," he said in a small voice, tracing tiny muddy Eg with one long finger.
Eg shook his head, pulling Arg's hand between his own. "Ug," he said, patting his own shoulder with it. "Eg."
Arg looked suspicious for a minute, and then broke into another blinding round of tooth-baring. "Eg!"
"Eg," Eg confirmed.
Arg sat back on his heels, passing his Enng club back and forth between hands. His eyes fell on Eg's Ooogarr spear.
"Ug," said Eg, picking it up. He held it out for Arg to take. "Ug?"
Arg looked doubtful.
"Arg," said Eg. Arg had saved his life. The least he could do was share his tools. "Ug."
Arg cocked his head again, and reached out tentatively. His fingers closed around Eg's spear and Eg let go of it, miming a throwing motion.
Arg stood, and shyly mimicked Eg's motion with his free hand. Eg bobbed his head and bared his teeth, standing to watch Arg throw an Ooogarr spear for the fist time.
Arg reared back, his weight balanced on one foot, and then he pitched forward suddenly and the spear went sailing over the river, the surrounding trees and.....
Completely out of Eg's field of vision. Which was pretty damn far - the Ooogarrs were a very advanced tribe, and Eg liked to think of himself as a prime specimen.
Arg looked over at Eg. "Ug," he said, sheepishly.
Eg opened his mouth and found a new word inside. "Wow."
One hour - or what would be an hour when mankind invented a concrete method of measuring time - and a very elaborate mud drawing spanning a good tree-length of the riverbank later, Eg looked up at Arg and said his new word again. "Wow."
That night, when the sun-sphere had sunk down behind the river for another night, and the moon-sphere was riding high in the sky, Eg turned over in his nest of furs and looked at Arg.
"Huh," said Arg, reaching out to pat his head again.
Eg shrugged. "Ug."
He didn't want Arg to feel bad. They'd had a hell of a day - cheating death, learning about what Eg had a feeling would one day be known as aliens, testing the aerodynamic potential of a very well made Ooogarr spear. And of course, they'd made up a total of three new words. Hair! You! Wow! The world would never be the same again!
Eg rolled onto his back again, feeling very satisfied. He could live with the no head-fur thing. It seemed a small price to pay. He was the dominant male of the biggest and most powerful tribe in all the land, he was going to be heralded in the history books for his work on the spoken language, and his new-found companion could throw spears further than any Earth-born creature could dream of.
Iogel never had it so good.
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