Tag Archives: Vokh

And then there were…ostriches?

Yes, I’ve been researching ostriches today, but only for their legs. In particular, I wanted to find out why their knees bend backwards.

Well, it turns out that ostrich knees don’t bend backward at all; the thing that looks like a knee is actually an ankle. But who am I to criticize a bird that’s capable of running between 60 and 70 km per hour!

If you’re interested in this amazing bird, you can find a really good article about it right here. For me, though, the point about ostrich legs is that they make the bird look as if it’s standing upright, more or less. This makes the leg structure perfect for the Vokh as I want them to walk upright as well.

I’ve only just started to work on the Vokh legs so you’ll have to use your imagination rather a lot. First I traced around a pair of ostrich legs:

[Note: I found the Corel Draw B-Spline drawing tool really handy for tracing the outline.]

Next, I found a picture of some black opera gloves, you know, the kind that go half way up to the shoulder. To my great joy, the elbows were shown as slightly bent. I traced around them too, but this time, I used the tracing to cut out the glove I wanted:

Yes, it’s the same glove flipped horizontally. 🙂

Fitting the glove texture into the ostrich legs is going to take some tricky re-engineering, especially as I need to add ‘proper’ raptor feet complete with killing claws, but that’s for another day. I’m thrilled to have solved the problem of the legs so easily.

As always, thanks for joining me on these odd detours into research and graphics. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


Vokhtan Bestiary – food animals

Technically the Tukti should be part of any list of food animals however as they are not common food animals – because they are only eaten by the Vokh and because there is a possibility that they may be sentient – I am not including them in this list.

Akhat

Akhat are small, flightless, bird-like creatures that resemble terran emus  with large eyes and long flexible necks. However instead of feathers akaht are covered in soft fur ranging in colour from mid purple to a soft, luminous lavender which allows them to blend in to the grassy plains where they live.

They have two very strong legs with powerful clawed toes that allow them to run very fast and change direction easily. As Akhat are herd animals they rely on safety in numbers and their running ability to get them away from predators.

Akaht are omnivores and their varied diet makes their blood taste salty and a little gamey. They are the favoured food of high ranking iVokh such as healers and seneschals.

The Vokh will feed on akaht as well but only if they are very hungry and tukti are not available, or if their eyries happen to be a long way from the great plains where the akaht herds live.

Most ordinary iVokh will feed off one or more of the following animals, depending on season and availability :

Rock lizards.   Rock lizards are six-legged, reptilian scavengers covered in scales which can change colour to match their surroundings. Similar to terran chameleons, they can go from being a drab grey when scurrying around the rocks to a brilliant purple when slinking through the rich vegetation of the ravines.

Rock lizards abound in the ravines and are always plentiful as they breed at a very fast rate. Their blood is nourishing but has a strong smell and a  slightly bitter taste.

Ahp. Ahp are fresh water snails which thrive in the small streams of the ravines and canyons. Although they have a shell they cannot retract their bodies completely like the Titi so the iVokh love eating them as snacks, sinking their sharp fangs into the body cavity and then popping the whole ahp into their mouths to suck out the rich, slightly nutty body fluids. When they are done they spit out the flesh.

Like most of the animals of vokhtah Ahp can change the colour of their shells but, as they spend most of their time in water the colour range is usually muddy brown to grey.

Titi. Titi are small barnacle-like crustaceans that spend the daylight hours clinging to rocks just below the waterline of Vokhtan lakes and streams. During the dark however they crawl across damp rocks, feeding on moss, lichen and any dead things they can find.

These scavengers are usually slow moving, creeping across the rocks by pulling themselves along with two tentacle like feet covered in suckers. When threatened they snatch their feet back inside their shells and seal themselves in.

The following short excerpt gives an insight into how the iVokh catch and eat titi when they are out in the wild.

‘By the time the Acolyte reached the shoreline the Second was already belly down on a large, flat rock that jutted out into the lake. The upper half of its body hung down into the water as it scraped at something below the surface. When it sat up a moment later it was brandishing a small slime-encrusted crustacean. Slime covered the Second’s arms as well but it looked quite pleased with itself.

“Watching for predators,” it said as it threw the titi at the young iVokh’s feet. “And keeping titi from crawling away!”

Nodding with a distinct lack of enthusiasm the Acolyte bent towards the slimy creature that was already extending two tentacled feet from within its shell and picked it up between finger and thumb. At the Acolyte’s touch the titi pulled its feet back inside and snapped its shell shut with a sharp snick.

Despite disliking titi intensely the young iVokh found that hunger could make even the most unappealing of food seem appetizing. Wasting no more time lamenting the delicacies it could not have, it stepped carefully over the slippery rocks until it found a nearby boulder that was already starting to steam in the warmth. Quickly building a corral of small stones on top of the boulder it dropped the titi inside and headed back towards the Second who already had another titi ready to be steamed.

Both suns were in the sky when the Second and the Acolyte finally sat down and began pulling the half cooked titi flesh from the shells. The meat was chewy and tough, with an unpleasant after-taste of slime but both iVokh  were so hungry they would not have noticed if it had been seasoned with mud.’

Ipti. Ipti are small, fast, rodent-like animals with six legs. It is possible they are distantly related to the tukti because they too are herbivores and have the same general body structure. Like the tukti they have four running legs and two ‘arms’ but unlike the tukti their eyes are small and they have longer snouts with large nostrils. They also lack the tukti whiskers as they do not burrow but instead nest in crevices and caves.

Because Ipti live in caves where the temperature remains fairly constant they lack the downy undercoat of the Tukti and so their bodies look smaller and sleeker – less rounded and fluffy. Another difference is that their fur is a dark grey with only the muzzle and under belly showing any colour – usually a washed out lavender or white.

Ipti teeth are generally larger than those of tukti and this may be because their diet includes the moss, lichen and fungi which must be scraped from the rocks in caves. This cave food makes them taste quite bland.


Vokhtan Bestiary – the Kaa

The Kaa are the second largest and most ferocious predators on Vokhtah, second only to the Vokh.

The iVokh call them the Red Daemons because their red-on-red colouring allows them to drop out of a clear orange sky with virtually no warning.

In build the Kaa come closest to resembling earth birds of prey with deep chests, very powerful flight muscles and  true feathers which give them exceptional flying power and maneuverability in the dense air and lighter gravity of Vokhtah .

Unlike terran birds however the Kaa have four limbs and their heads are not at all bird-like. Kaa have large, forward facing eyes topped by bony brow ridges that protect the eyes beneath from all but the most accurate attack.  Scales cover every fingerwidth of their faces right down to the tips of their narrow snouts and huge flaring nostrils. Below the snout the lower jaw juts out slightly beyond the upper jaw, both of which are equipped with rows of razor-sharp teeth. These teeth scissor backwards and forwards and can cut through flesh, bone and gristle with equal ease [much like to’pak].

When it comes to straight flight the Kaa are better flyers than most Vokh however they lack the jetting and hovering ability of the Vokh and this is why the average Vokh will always defeat the average Kaa. The Matriarchs amongst the Kaa are a different matter however. They are permanently female and are bigger and stronger than the males. When they have nestlings the Matriarchs become so protective and so ferocious that even the highest ranking Vokh think twice about attacking them. Only the Nine can defeat them with ease.

On the ground however even the Matriarchs are at a disadvantage as their short powerful legs are designed for lifting off the ground not running. Their long, powerful talons also become a liability on the ground, sinking deep into soft ground and providing little purchase on rock.

This vulnerability is why the Kaa usually scavenge in flights of two or more. Each flight is lead by a Matriarch and can include up to four of the smaller males. The size of the flight depends upon the age and strength of the Matriarch as she is the one who must keep her mates from fighting amongst each other.

Once a Matriarch has nestlings she hunts alone and relies on the camoflage of her colouring, speed and her great cunning to catch live prey for her offspring. Teaching her nestlings to kill and eat live prey is the first step in teaching them to hunt for themselves.

The cunning and ferocity of Matriarchs is legend amongst the Vokh and the iVokh however most still think of the Kaa as simple beasts. Only a very few of either race have ever considered the possibility that the Kaa might actually be more intelligent than ordinary predators.

This short extract provides an insight into the behaviour of these unusual beasts :

High above the two iVokh the Kaa Matriarch dropped down out of the orange disk of Takhti like a silent red shadow.

She had been searching for the killer of her nestlings ever since she had returned to the nest to find them both gone.

When she had finally found their bodies they had been covered in the stench of the creature that had killed them, yet the smell had not been that of the hated Black One and so she had followed the scent trail from the spot where her offspring had been killed to the shore of the big water and from there up almost as high as the place of killer winds where the trail had disappeared. 

Since then she had been criss-crossing the grasslands hoping to pick up the trace again and now she knew she was very close.’


Vokhtan Bestiary – the To’pak

My thanks to all of you who showed such interest in the Tukti last week. I feel a little guilty though because I may have given you a false impression of the beasts of Vokhtah. Vokhtah is not a gentle place and the Tukti are one of the very few creatures on the planet that are gentle. This week I have to start introducing you to some of the more normal denizens of this world – the predators.

 

There are many predators on Vokhtah but none more fearsome on the ground than the To’pak. These huge, lumbering beasts look as if they should be slow but they can move surprisingly quickly when they scent prey and their long, prehensile tongues give them an added reach that makes them truly formidable.

Once a To’pak catches its prey with that tongue the hapless creature is drawn into a mouth lined with two sets of razor sharp teeth which can grind flesh from bone in moments. And then grind the bones up as well.

To’pak are not fussy feeders. Their most common prey are the huge herds of akaht that roam the great plains but they welcome a bit of variety in their diets and will happily munch on any iVokh foolish enough to be caught outside during the dark when these nocturnal monsters hunt.

To’pak would gladly eat Vokh as well if they could but in the hierarchy of predators none stand higher than the Vokh.

The following short excerpt describes an encounter between a nester – the egg-layer amongst the To’pak – and a Vokh of rank seven. The highest rank any Vokh can achieve is nine but there is only ever one nine – The Nine. This is about the Seven of Five Rocks :

The Seven came in fast, dropping down out of the sky behind the sleeping to’pak before the great beast even knew that it was under attack. Grasping the predator’s long, armoured tail with both hands the Vokh flipped it onto its back with a quick heave and then stood back to admire the result.

The to’pak were formidable predators – when they were on their feet – but once they were on their backs they were helpless, anchored to the ground by the sheer weight of the massive bone plates that protected their heads and upper bodies. Given enough time this to’pak would eventually rock itself upright again but for now its six, stubby legs were just waving in the air and it was going nowhere.

Rising up into the air the Seven took aim and then dove again. At the very last moment it dropped its legs and allowed momentum to carry it across the to’pak’s broad, lightly scaled belly. Blood appeared wherever its feet made contact while the deadly scythes on its heels opened up deep gashes that exposed the entrails within.

Too stupid to know that it was already dead, the to’pak roared in rage and pain, redoubling its efforts to get back on its feet. As it thrashed, coil after coil of bluey purple intestine spilled from its belly.

Grabbing the dying To’pak by the tail once more the Seven dragged it off to one side so it could reach the egg filled hollow where the creature had been sleeping. Twelve large, round eggs lay in the hollow, their pale pink shells glistening wetly in the harsh light of Takh.

The Seven picked up one of the eggs and held it up to the light, grunting in satisfaction when it saw only a tiny spot of darkness floating in the yolk. The Small One loved fresh laid to’pak eggs. Perhaps it should take one or two back to the eyrie as a peace offering. Or perhaps not. A Voice was duty bound to serve its master whether it approved of its master’s choices or not. Let it sulk for a while. In time it would realise the value of Needlepoint.

Needless to say most encounters in a to’pak’s life end very differently to this one but that is the price they pay for being third best. Next week I will introduce you to the Kaa who are almost but not quite as deadly as the Vokh.

cheers

Meeks

 


An excerpt from Vokhtah, Prelude to the Storm

Dear friends,

So many of you have said encouraging things about the Tukti that you’ve given me the courage to post an excerpt that can be read as a short story, more or less.  I will need to provide a little bit of context though. The Vokh are the rulers of the world of Vokhtah. The are extremely aggressive, psychopathic beings who cannot be in close proximity to each other without fighting. So each Vokh lives alone in an eyrie with small servitors called iVokh. The iVokh are far less aggressive than the Vokh but are still borderline sociopaths.

The following excerpt is about one distinct group of iVokh who are called Traders. The Traders and the Healers are the only two groups who live independent of the Vokh. The official leader of the Traders is called the Quartermaster and here, the old Quartermaster is dead, apparently having died in its sleep.

Read on :

The Traders were all gathered in the Great Hall, paying their last respects to the old Quartermaster when the Old One snuck back into the caverns that had once belonged to its Master. It found the four large cushions scattered untidily around the low table in the centre of the main cavern.

One of the cushions was already stained with spots of dried blood but the Old One was not interested in the new Quartermaster’s careless feeding habits. Plucking the cushion from the floor it hurried over to one of the torches and carefully examined the cured tukti leather for any rips or tears. There were none. Then it turned the cushion over and gave the same, meticulous attention to the thicker akaht hide that had been used on the bottom. Again it found nothing.

Returning the cushion to the exact spot in which it had found it the Old One went through the same careful process with the second and third cushions. Still nothing.

The fourth cushion had been thrown to one side and when the Old One lifted it up its cilia went rigid with distress. This must have been the cushion its Master had used the most because its scent still lingered in the soft leather, the combination of dreamweed and sweat as distinctive as the features of its face.

Hugging the cushion to its chest, the Old One stood with its head bowed for a long moment before it finally stirred and took the cushion closer to the light. As with the first three cushions it found no rents in the soft tukti leather on top and no holes in the seams. However when it flipped the cushion over its eyes were immediately drawn to the three curved gashes that marred the thick hide. Too clean and sharp to be the marks of abrasion, the two smaller holes were spaced fairly close together while the third and largest was some distance away.

The Old One did not know what could have made those holes but as it ran its hand over the leather it poked a finger in each of the smaller holes. When it pulled its hand away there were small red hairs caught under the two claws of its left hand. It stared at its fingers for a score of heartsbeats before poking its fingers back in the same holes. This time however it stretched its thumb as far as it would go towards the larger, solitary hole. Even at full stretch its thumb fell short of the hole…

but thumb of Plodder could reaching

That insight made the Old One go cold and it dropped the cushion with a hiss of dread.

Why would its Master poke holes in the bottom of a cushion… and then replace it so the holes would not show?

Snatching the cushion up again the Old One lowered its head until its cilia were almost touching the holes left by its master’s hand. Then it sniffed, long and deep. The scent of dreamweed and sweat was very faint but it was there, as was the sharp, acrid smell of fear.

The Old One was shaking as it returned the cushion and then let itself out of the cavern for the last time. It was still shaking half a turn later as it squatted in a disused storage cavern trying to make sense of the unthinkable. Ever since leaving the new Quartermaster’s cavern it had been searching for innocent reasons to explain what it had found yet in the end only one terrible explanation fit all the facts – four circuits ago someone had entered the private sanctum of its Master and had used that cushion to end its life.

For someone like the Old One who had been trained in the Teller fighting techniques the stench of murder was unmistakable. It had been taught to kill in a score of silent ways and smothering had been one of them.

The Tellers who had come to kill the Master must have known of its growing use of dreamweed and must have hoped to use the weed induced lethargy to make a quick, natural looking kill. But its Master had not yet been an addict and it had been a Plodder. It must have awakened and tried to push the cushion away. That was why it had been found with tukti hairs beneath its claws.

As the Old One rocked backwards and forwards, its cilia rigid with a keen it did not dare release it tried to convince itself that death had found its Master quickly and without pain yet it had known the old Trader too long and too well to believe that comforting lie. Plodders never gave up and despite being old and fat its Master had been a Plodder. It would have kept on fighting until the moment its hearts had finally stopped. A long, slow, merciless death…

*****

Apologies if anyone found this snippet too confusing.

cheers

Meeks

 


Vokhtan Bestiary – the Tukti

I had a rather rude awakening this morning.

“Mum? Mum!”

“Wha?”

“Mum, there’s a huge huntsman right next to the front door!”

“Mmmm…”

“It’s HUGE! And we can’t get out!”

“Mmmm…go out the back door…”

“Oh…”

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.

 

 

 


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