I had a rather rude awakening this morning.
“Mum, there’s a huge huntsman right next to the front door!”
“It’s HUGE! And we can’t get out!”
“Mmmm…go out the back door…”
And so the day began. I got out of my nice warm bed, pulled on some daggy clothes and Ugg boots and went out to face my nemesis. To make matters even worse I could not even wait for the fortification of a cup of coffee. I knew I could not wait for the kettle to boil because that big, hairy, many legged spider could easily sneak off and hide somewhere else while I was trying to wake up. Sad to say the one thing that scares me more than a spider I can see is the certainty that there is one lurking about somewhere that I can’t see.
I won’t go into the gory details of just exactly how I killed that huntsman, let’s just say that it involved a lot of smelly Mortein and a broom. So now, while my house airs and I wait for the kettle to boil, I’m going to tell you about a different kind of many-legged creature – a Tukti. [Pronounced ‘took’ + ‘ti’].
Of all the creatures of Vokhtah, the Tukti really are my favourites. They may look like bright red, furry, almost-spiders [see above] but they are actually one of the few truly inoffensive creatures in the Vokhtan Bestiary. Tukti do not kill anything, even bugs, because they are vegetarians and feed almost exclusively on the roots, stalk and seeds of the lush grasses that grown on the great Plains of Vokhtah.
Despite being herbivores however the Tukti are not stupid. Nor are they easy to catch, as the Vokh have long known. They are, however, quite delicious which is why they have become the preferred food of the Vokh.
One of the most distinctive things about the Tukti is that they are builders. Every colony begins as a roughly circular mound. As the colony grows the Tukti begin to build tunnels radiating out from the central mound. These tunnels connect to smaller, sister mounds and in time a truly large colony can look like a village of rounded mud huts from the air. The resemblance ends there though because there is nothing inside the mounds but dirt; all of the activity in a Tukti colony happens deep below ground.
Schematic of a tukti mound
The large white pipe shown in the schematic to the left is both an entrance and a conduit for water during the rains. It leads directly to an underground water storage basin. From there the water slowly drains away to the aquifer shown in bright blue.
To reach their storage and living areas the Tukti have to go up from the main access tunnel. All of the narrow tunnels shown in pink stay dry even in the worst of the rains.
If some water does manage to seep into these pedestrian tunnels however then it immediately drains down into the second, smaller water basin.
As an added precaution all of the short pink access tunnels leading from the main pink tunnel to each of the living or storage areas are built at an angle so again, to reach those areas the Tukti must go up. Thus the whole mound would have to fill with water before the living and storage areas could become innundated.
Fresh air is brought into the mound via air shafts that break the surface from their own, raised mounds.
The areas shown in pink are communal living areas. Those shown in beige are for the storage of grain which the Tukti harvest as a group.
In many ways the Tukti colonies could be mistaken for terran insect colonies however the Tukti are not insects. They are warm blooded, pseudo-mammalian creatures that give birth to live young – usually triplets – and care for those young until they reach adulthood. These young are called ‘Kits’.
The Tukti also possess another rare feature – they are born as either male or female and remain male or female their entire lives.
Breeding pairs of Tukti do not generally mate for life however they do stay together while their kits grow, roughly five Vokhtan cycles.
A question that has often vexed the iVokh healers of the Guild is how the Tukti manage to co-operate on these massive building projects when they are mute?
This question remained unanswered for a long time until a Vokh, the Six of Needlepoint, discovered that the Tukti could communicate mind to mind. How it made this discovery is still a subject of debate at the highest levels of the Guild.
And there you have it. Tukti are cute, smart and very strange by Vokhtan standards. I hope you like them as much as I do.