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 Daraz have a tactile written language, since their infrared vision can’t detect ink on paper or print in a book.
They have two main systems of writing:
1. Cord notation: This format is similar to quipu, though the actual implementation is a little different. Size and distribution of knots, as well as weave of the cords, is used to convey information.
2. Wax notation: Knotting and weaving is a slow process, so the corded language is more for information that needs to be archived. These cords are typically transcribed from a writing system that uses a stylus to deposit dots and dashes of hot wax that mimic the knots and weaves of the cords.
The pot of wax is kept warm and liquid by storing it in a rivulet diverted from a hot spring. While it is still warm the wax is visible to the Daraz, so as they write with the stylus they have a visual impression of what they’re writing.
Once the wax cools and is no longer visible, they read the raised parts via touch.
This system is also useful for written communication with humans – while humans are not physically capable of speaking Rovari, they can certainly read it. Objects that might need to be read by both Daraz and humans, like containers of shared medicinals, will often be labeled in both Pocali and Rovari.
The Daraz we’ve met thus far in the Valley of the Silk Sky comics speak a regional dialect called Rovari.
Rovari is a tonal language that, if you [a human, I presume] could hear in its full range, would sound very musical, with voiced tones over more sibilant sounds.
But you can’t hear its full range, because much of it is voiced in supersonic frequencies. So to a human the language sounds harsh, buzzing and staccato.
Humans are not physically capable of speaking Rovari, lacking the required physiology and sonic range. Luckily, Daraz don’t generally have trouble speaking human languages (though they do tend to speak with a lisp), and often take on roles as translators.
Daraz have fairly poor vision: they don’t see color or detail, and their language reflects that in that they don’t have words for specific colors, nor do their idioms reference sight. They comprehend detail through sound, via echolocation, so words for precision reference hearing. For example, they might say “I hear you” instead of “I see” to signal understanding.
They do have extremely sensitive senses of smell, so there are thousands of words for different smells, indeed different individual esters, and further metaphorical meanings for those various words. Daraz names almost always reference scents, and are formally constructed as “Smells Like .” Halvanylila = “Smells Like the Fourth Ester of Lilac.”