There is perhaps no stranger beast than the Tolu. A flabby, six-legged, horse-sized beast of burden with naught but a pipe-straw for a mouth, the Tolu is a disturbing sight indeed for any who witness it. Any of course, but the Doimo Nomads, who are well-acquainted with this particular oddity, and have in fact formed a strong cultural bond with the creature.
In the distance, a Tolu could perhaps be mistaken for a
horse. The distance however, would have to be significant. Rarely does a
horse have an extra pair of legs, or as prodigious a
proboscis as the Tolu. Nor do horses have (at least not to this compendiumist's
knowledge!) have what can only be described as humps - strange stomach-like sacs
drooping off the beast's girthy frame.
The Tolu's six legs are not quite evenly distributed. The two hind sets of legs are stockier, and a bit closer together than the spindly front pair. The odd balance leaves the Tolu with a stumbling, rambling gait, but also offers the beast considerable sprinting power when it pushes off with the hind set of limbs. The speed is absolutely surprising to witness at first glance. The wide, splayed, hooves look unsuited for anything but slow plodding, and the creature's usual scuttle is anything but dexterous.
Contributing to the Tolu's somewhat clumsy facade is its corpulent frame. All across the pack-beast's torso flop anywhere from two to six large, flabby humps, filled with fat. Whilst adding a certain amount of comical whimsy to the Tolu, the humps seem to serve a practical purpose as well, acting as a natural canteen of sorts. A well-fed Tolu will be distinguished by the sheer number of humps present, while one belonging to a less-well-to-do Nomad, or perhaps an unlucky wild specimen may have only one slender hump sticking from the side.
The Tolu's final distinguishing feature is indeed the one most off-putting. It has an extraordinarily thin snout, containing a long, serpentine tongue; the tongue seems perfectly made to suck water out of hard to reach places, or to reach high leaves in the rare desert trees. The Tolu's "jaw", if one can call it that, is little more than a slender pipe. Indeed, the beast has no teeth whatsoever, instead preferring to offer a powerful kick as its preferred defense.
The Tolu typically stands at one ped and two fores at the shoulder, weighing approximately 13 pygges and six mut.
In colour, the Tolu range from a fairly common sandy brown to a more piebald white and brown colouration, more common in females than males. Besides this detail, males and females are almost identical.
Territory. The Tolu makes its home in the Naezshan Zhunith thirstlands, a brutal land of savage heat and frigid nights. The Tolu can be found roaming throughout the thirstlands, located in Western Nybelmar.
Habitat/Behaviour. Unlike most animals, the Tolu live in different sized groups throughout their lives. In this way, they are perhaps more akin to man than beast. A Tolu, in the wild, is born within a large herd. These herds often number around twenty or so of the creatures. In true communal spirit, the healthiest Tolu care for the young, protecting them and feeding them. Mature, female Tolu lactate as long as they remain fertile (up until approximately 15 years old), and any female will gladly feed any young calf.
As the Tolu matures, it will strike off on its own, wandering the desert until it finds a suitable mate. It is believed that the Tolu travel along certain paths, or else follow some secret knowledge. It is almost unheard of to see an old bachelor, or a maiden Tolu past her prime. Even in the vast expanse of the desert, the Tolu will almost invariably find a mate.
Once properly met, a couple will often travel together for years, until the Tolu is just nearing full maturity. At this point, the Tolu pair will travel instinctively to a breeding ground, where they and many others will band together, forming or joining up with a larger herd.
As the Tolu reaches old age, it will wander off with its mate into the desert. Invariably, the two will find some desolate spot, lay their heads atop each other, and remain thusly until the last of their fate wastes away, and the beasts rejoin with the sand.
When domesticated by the Doimo Nomads, however, the Tolu will usually only be found in pairs, as a Tolu cannot be domesticated after it has produced a calf. The usually docile creature will reject human (or any other beast for that matter) with violent force, kicking, spitting at, and occasionally head-butting any stranger, in defense of its calf.
Diet. The Tolu gets by on meals few and far between. Most of these meals consist of fruit pulp, nectar, water, and any other soft foodstuffs the Tolu can easily suck up using its narrow mouth. Besides vegetation, the Tolu will also consume locusts and other desert insects as a particular treat. The Doimo Nomads often use the particularly tasty Morselbunch Beetle as a reward whilst training young Tolu.
Mating. The Tolu mates with the first potential partner it finds, and remains faithful to this partner all its life. When the time for breeding comes, typically in the coolest months, the Tolu will congregate in one specific area, and initiate a festival of sorts. The locations of these breeding grounds are evident to any traveler, specifically downwind. The male Tolu releases a powerful musk, used to encourage the female to submissiveness.
During this time, the male Tolu grows extremely aggressive, and fights within these gatherings are not uncommon. In addition, the entire herd will often become extremely hostile to outsiders, making close study, already an unsavoury prospect, nigh impossible.
Usages. The Tolu is used by the Doimo Nomads as a beast of burden. Its milk is sweet, succulent, and extremely nutritious, and its hide is sturdy and tough, perfect for building tents.
Myth/Lore. As the male Tolu mates with the first available female it comes across, when a pair of young Doimo Nomads marries without their parent's consent, the tribe will often refer to the two as a "Tolling" couple, bearing the same meaning as elopement in other cultures.