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.