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The Provinces of Pocalo: Muru Overview

The Provinces of Pocalo: Muru Overview published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - Muru overviewThe web structure that spans almost the entire length and breadth of the valley is a country known as Pocalo.

Each level of the web structure is a separate province, and each province has its own distinct flora and fauna, culture, dialect, food, and so forth. There are elevators connecting the provinces that allow for travel up and down.

Muru is the third tier of the lower provinces, making it the topmost province that is still in direct contact with the ground. Muru is a bit of a rough place to make a go of things, as there are a number of predators roaming about who view humans as a tasty snack. The porous nature of Muru’s borders means that people can come and go as they please, making it a desirable location for those who wish to operate outside the law.

Most settlements in Muru are built high off the ground due to the aforementioned predators and bandits. Because much of the interior is in the shadow cast by the upper provinces, almost all major settlements in Muru are found around the outer edges. The city the arrow is pointing to is Duvane, an outpost town that is not at all flashy, but a good spot to head to if you have goods to sell or trade.

Despite being rough and difficult to navigate, Muru forms a cornerstone of the Pocali economy. It is home to many rare flora and fauna which are used to make medicines. The majority of runners spend at least some of their time foraging in Muru.

Tolas: Mountain Forest Tola Society

Tolas: Mountain Forest Tola Society published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - mountain forest tolasWhile 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.

Migration

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.

Pocalo Technology: Pharma

Pocalo Technology: Pharma published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - pharmaAs discussed in the article on medicine, pharmaceuticals form a major part of the Pocali economy.

Medicinals are generally available in two forms: prefabricated or compounded.

Prefabrication works best for widely used remedies that can be mass-produced on some level (not dependent on rare ingredients, and used for treating relatively common ailments). These will typically come in tubes, many labeled in Rovari script in addition to Pocali, particularly for medicines used by both Daraz and Humans.

The majority of medicines, though, are compounded: made to order from raw ingredients per the individual’s specific medical needs. Because several different types of raw medicinals might have the same or similar effects, and the rarity of various medicinals makes large scale consistency difficult to achieve, in many cases it’s just easier to make something on the spot based on whatever ingredients are available in the region.

An apothecarist’s egg is basically a portable mini-pharmacy. A typical egg will contain raw ingredients, tinctures, extracts, and tools for mixing medicines or forming tablets.

Pocalo Culture: Peliyn

Pocalo Culture: Peliyn published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - peliynPocali culture doesn’t assign any specific societal roles or presentations or clothing to you based on whatever body parts you happen to have been born with, or whatever body parts you happen to have right at this moment. People dress how they want, perform the work that best suits them, and adopt whatever mannerisms feel comfortable to them.

As such, there’s no Pocali word for “transgender.” Everyone uses neutral pronouns, and there are no opposite sides to “cross” over to. But there are still people who experience body dysphoria, given that this is a condition separate from gender identity.

Pocali medical science offers a few avenues of relief for folks with body dysphoria, the most common being hormone treatments. People who seek these treatments are known as peliyn, which literally translates to “one who changes the body.”

The Peliyn Medical Society is a group of doctors, pharmacists, and scientists who are knowledgeable about the effectiveness and limitations of currently available treatments, and who take an interest in researching new options.

Flora and Fauna: Shriekers

Flora and Fauna: Shriekers published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - shriekersShriekers are one of the largest predators in the Valley. They are typically found where forests meet open space, and typically prey on herd animals of various sorts.

They are pack hunters whose main strategy involves sneakily encircling the herd they’re hunting. Shriekers at the rear let out a horrifically loud, piercing scream that either a) roots you in place in absolute terror, whereupon they grab you, or b) sends you fleeing in panic, directly towards the rest of the pack, who then grab you. All the shriekers close in around the prey to prevent escape. The shriekers at the rear can take care of any stragglers.

When their preferred prey migrates away during the winter months, shriekers go into hibernation. Like most hibernating animals, they will wake up periodically during the cycle, whether to engage in routine maintenance or because they’ve been disturbed by interlopers.

Ecology and Economy

Shriekers are keystone predators, making them essential for environmental balance in the Valley. Get rid of shriekers, and all of a sudden the herd animal population explodes, eats a bunch of plants that were keeping other plants in check, and the unchecked plants completely take over and kill off that one rare medicinal flower.

Since the Valley’s economy is so heavily dependent on materials gleaned from unique microclimates, the people want to avoid making any drastic changes to the ecosystem. As such, despite their fearsome nature, it is illegal to kill shriekers except in self-defense.

How Not to Get Eaten

“Why not just use repellents to avoid the shriekers?” you ask. Unfortunately, repellents don’t work especially well on shriekers. Since so much of their hunting strategy involves running prey into traps, individual shriekers may be too far out of range to ward off with a repellent. Because they move so quickly, they’ve already bitten you in half before they notice the unpleasant smell.

The best strategy is simply to move (quietly) during their hibernation season, or to monitor a pack and wait until they’re distracted by a hunt to sneak by.

If they decide to go after you, find some low, dense shrubbery to hide in, and then stay as still and as quiet as possible. You may have to sit there awhile, but eventually the shriekers will lose track of you and wander off.

Flora and Fauna: Melaine Mushroom

Flora and Fauna: Melaine Mushroom published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - melaine mushroom

Melaine is a carnivorous fungus that typically feeds on insects or small animals like birds and rodents (the size of the prey depends on the size of the mushroom). Prey are lured in by the sweet-smelling ball bait at the end of a hair trigger. The treacherous ball is extremely sticky, and the struggles of the stuck prey trigger the hair to yoink them forcefully into a bowl of viscous digestive juices. The larger the melaine the more potent the goo, and the larger melaine specimens can eat away at human flesh.

For humans, it’s a “better safe than sorry” situation. If you see (or smell) a patch of melaine, give it a wide berth, lest you accidentally step in one and get splashed with a caustic substance.

Since the digestive goo is viscous and sticky, getting it off once it’s on you is a challenge to say the least. As with poison ivy oils, sometimes efforts to remove the substance just spread it over you even more. You will, at the very least, wind up with some lovely chemical burns, if not open sores.

The Daraz Harcos have significantly thicker and less sensitive skin than humans, so they aren’t as likely to be harmed by the melaine’s digestive juices. They have discovered that a small mushroom isn’t potent enough to do significant damage to the skin, but instead acts as a disinfectant for wounds, and the sticky nature of the goo helps stop bleeding by sealing the cut. Instead of avoiding melaine at all costs, the Harcos seek it out as an important tool in field medicine.

Flora and Fauna: Carnivorous Plants

Flora and Fauna: Carnivorous Plants published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - carnivorous plants

The Valley in which the Provinces of Pocalo sit is ringed by a range of high red mountains. The poor nutrient content of the red soil, coupled with the erosion issues on the cloud spider web structure (and low sunlight in many areas), make it difficult for many species of plants to take root.

As a result, several of the more successful plants in the region are ones that had evolved to draw their sustenance from the delicious flesh of insects, and other things (cough, ahem) larger than insects. Birds, perhaps. A rat or two. Maybe, I don’t know, a human sometimes? Who’s counting, really?

Sticky tendrils, grasping appendages, alluring lights, digestive juices: the flora of the Valley have a wide range of adaptations for ensnaring and devouring hapless fauna.

Several of the plants, like the melaine mushroom, have useful medicinal applications, provided one can harvest them without being eaten.

Flora and Fauna: Sweetberry Bush

Flora and Fauna: Sweetberry Bush published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - sweetberry bush

Sure, giant mudbats can be scary if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, but by far the most dangerous thing in this picture is that massive green shrub, the sweetberry bush.

As the name would imply, the bush produces a delectable fruit. It’s quite edible and nutritious! Some enterprising soul who encountered the bush in its native habitat thought, “Why don’t I bring this lovely, innocent little plant back to Pocalo with me, that I may cultivate its delicious produce?”

Well, it turns out birds took a liking to the berries and cheerfully dispersed the seeds in their poop, and the sweetberry bush really, REALLY took a liking to the province of Muru in particular. It spread explosively, and has choked out countless native species in its rampage across the landscape.

Economic and Social Effects

Muru’s economy has long been heavily dependent on the collection and sale of the various rare medicinal plants that grow throughout the province. Runners who specialized in a particular species found themselves out of work after the sweetberry bush showed up in their region and destroyed the indigenous flora.

The resulting economic instability has led to a significant increase in crime throughout Muru, with many former runners becoming bandits. Meanwhile, the extinction of numerous medically beneficial species has caused a resurgence in various previously-treatable diseases, resulting in waves of epidemics throughout Pocalo as supplies of medicines have run out. Social services are stretched thin dealing with both the crime and the epidemics.

The Poison Marsh

Attempts to control the bush have ranged from the ineffective to the utterly disastrous. The worst of these was an experiment with an herbicide whose runoff collected into a low-lying area, rendering a whole region dangerously toxic. This area is now simply known as the Poison Marsh.

Worst of all, the herbicide not only failed to kill the bush, but destroyed various other plants, opening up even more of the landscape to colonization by … THE DREADED SWEETBERRY BUSH.

Pocalo Economy: Runners

Pocalo Economy: Runners published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - Chadsen - RunnerThe unusual geography of the Valley makes it a host to countless microclimates, which in turn means there’s a whole bunch of rare flora, many of which may only be found in one small area.

Many of these plants have valuable medicinal or industrial application, and they can often be difficult or impossible to cultivate. So how do you get ahold of them if, say, you’re a pharmacist and you need that berry extract for a wound treatment salve? Why, you hire yourself a runner.

The harder a plant is to get, the more it costs to retrieve. So, while you can certainly do a little bit of business as a runner in the upper provinces, the real money is to be had collecting items from the lower three provinces. All you have to do is avoid being killed by whatever is between you and the thing you’re trying to collect. Simple!

Pretty much anyone can become a runner, but you’ll have an easier time getting hired if you’re licensed by the Pocali government. Licensed runners have had training in correctly identifying desirable plants (you do not, for example, want to hire a runner who can’t tell the beneficial berry from the nearly identical poisonous berry).

Of course, the services of licensed runners are more expensive. Use an unlicensed runner at your (or possibly your client’s) own risk.

There is a standard set of runner’s gear that includes the shirt, trousers, bracers, gaiters, shoes, belt, and vest. The outfit is designed to be modular, and there are multiple variations tailored to the preferences of the particular runner. Are you looking to enhance speed and flexibility (go with the wraps), or are you worried about snakes chewing on your ankles (you’ll want those gaiters)?

You’ll be able to pick up a set of gear if you attend a runner’s academy in the course of pursuing your license. If you didn’t go to academy, you can make your own gear, or you can scavenge it from wherever you can find it. If you got it off the last runner who died in pursuit of that extremely-difficult-to-retrieve medicinal, maybe keep that fact to yourself.

Pocalo Economy: Medicine

Pocalo Economy: Medicine published on

Valley of the Silk Sky - pharmaceutical lab

Probably the single biggest reason Pocalo is a cultural melting pot and a destination worth traveling the world to get to: their medical science is unparalleled.

People come to the Valley to seek cures for their own ailments, or to buy medicines to sell elsewhere in the global market, or to study the practice of medicine. No surprise, then, that researching and cultivating medicinal flora is a big industry.

Pocalo is home to a huge number of microclimates, which in turns means there are countless rare plants that only grow in specific (and sometimes dangerous or hard-to-reach) places.

Valley of the Silk Sky - medical research centerBotanists are always looking for species that can be domesticated and grown on demand to reduce production costs. Places like the Pharmaceutical Research Center in Uttara City typically have greenhouses that cultivate whatever useful species can be grown in the area. The modular nature of the building helps prevent unwanted cross-pollination of the plants being cultivated, or escape by potentially invasive species.

The Research Center forms the economic hub of the area, and specializes in plants found locally. The plants and medicines produced by the Research Center are traded to other regions in Pocalo, who in turn trade their own plants and medicinals to Uttara. This network of pharmaceutical centers across Pocalo defines the layout of intercity and interprovince trade routes.

Pharmaceutical scientists like Amihan, Beneke, and Rosse study newly-found species in hopes of discovering new medicines. Of course, not all species can be domesticated or cultivated, so runners like Chadsen go out to find them in the wild.

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