While there are several different types of Tolas, the ones who make their appearance in “Valley of the Silk Sky: Medicine; Run” are primarily Mountain Forest Tolas.
Mountain Forest Tolas spend the summers at high elevation and the winters at low elevation. They maintain permanent settlements at each endpoint, and migrate between them as the seasons change. Migration occurs over the course of several weeks, with small bands taking different routes through the mountain forests. A small maintenance group will stay on at each permanent settlement during the off-season, as will anyone who is too old or too sick to travel.
Tolas maintain large swaths of the mountain forests, planting different types of edible and medicinal foliage at different elevations. Rather than carry food with them as they travel, they follow pre-planned routes rich with fruit- and nut-bearing trees and other plants. The staggered migration allows for waves of ripening food to sustain each band in turn.
Interactions with Humans and Daraz
Tolas and humans have little direct contact due to significant language barriers (humans can’t physically vocalize much of the Tolas’ speech, and vice-versa). The Daraz, whose vocalization capabilities span across both language groups, may act as interpreters between Tolas and humans.
The Daraz helped broker one of the major treaties between humans and Tolas, which governs the use of forests. Humans are allowed to harvest small amounts of food and medicinals from Tola-maintained forests, but are not permitted to cut down any trees or otherwise remove plants without prior consultation.
The tiered structure of Pocalo makes travel from one province to the next a challenge, unless you can hop on an elevator. Large elevators, like the one pictured here, are designed to carry a great deal of freight and several passengers (it seats around 150 people, so about the same as a medium-sized commercial airplane) among multiple provinces.
This particular elevator services four levels, and does much of the heavy lifting (ha ha) for getting agricultural foodstuffs distributed to the northern regions of the provinces. Merchants also use this elevator to move their wares around, perhaps selling medicines in one province, picking up some local foods, and moving on to sell those in a different province.
There are much smaller elevators dotted throughout the provinces, generally just ferrying between two levels. Most of these are concentrated in the upper provinces; the lower provinces (i.e., those at ground level and below) have relatively few elevators. This has more to do with population density than anything else; large swaths of the lowest two provinces are flooded, rendering them mostly uninhabitable.
While elevators have connected the provinces for around 300 years, this type of large freight elevator is relatively new technology (maybe 100 years old), and has accelerated cultural exchange and homogenization. While the people of each province still have their own distinct accents, clothing styles, foods, and so forth, basic necessities are widely distributed wherever you go.
Ah, the humble blue beetle, such a common sight in the Valley it gets the most obvious possible name. It’s also one of the main sources of animal protein for the citizens of Pocalo. So delicious, so nutritious.
Humans typically cook these insects prior to eating, as the texture of raw bug is not especially appetizing (similar in consistency to raw poultry). At the same time, “appetizing” is a luxurious concern for one who hasn’t had anything to eat in awhile, and humans can eat the beetle flesh raw if need be.
Daraz, meanwhile, aren’t accustomed to cooking food first (they can’t have fires in their underground cities or they’d all die of asphyxiation). But, whether raw or cooked, Daraz don’t typically care much for the taste of blue beetle and only tend to eat it out of necessity. The Rovari name for this particular insect translates roughly as “edible, I guess.”
Humans don’t just use the blue beetle for food. The shells are collected and ground into powder, which is then made into fabric dye. This particular dye is called “blue beetle blue,” JUST in case you were confused about the color or the source. Any dyed fabric is fancier than un-dyed fabric, but blue beetle blue still doesn’t rise much above “better than nothing.”