To'ul'hs

The first alien race to be discovered by Humanity

To'ul'hs on the surface of their home planet
Image from Luke Campbell
Beneath the thick clouds of Tohul Prime the surface is almost completely dark, except when lightning briefly illuminates the landscape.

Introduction

The To'ul'hs are an intelligent, flying species with an origin on a hot wet greenhouse world; many are now closely integrated into the Terragen civilizations. They were the first xenosophonts to come into direct contact with Terragens. When they were belatedly discovered in 3831 AT beneath the clouds of their home world they were a surprise, and in some quarters a disappointment, because of their relatively low level of technology. To'ul'h Prime (also known as Tohul) had been noted as a life-bearing world more than a millennium beforehand, and at least one preliminary expedition to the To'ul'h system had examined its planets from orbit, but the To'ul'h civilization was not apparent except at closer range. Because of their environment the To'ul'hs had never developed the kind of technology that would have led to electromagnetic emissions or orbital settlements, and To'ul'h cities and the extensive but subtle To'ul'h agricultural works were not evident beneath the thick layers of clouds and airborne life of their homeworld. The To'ul'h and their civilizations were found only after probes were sent to the planet's surface to explore the peculiar biology of To'ul'h Prime's pressure-cooker surface life.

Though their technologies were relatively unsophisticated (approximately equal to those of late Agricultural Age or early Industrial Age humans on Old Earth) baseline To'ul'hs had already been a civilized species for ten times as long as the entire history of the Terragens when they were contacted. They brought a rich culture and tradition with them when they finally joined the rest of the Civilized Galaxy, and To'ul'hs and their post-To'ul'h descendants are widespread and successful, some of them as a part of Terragen civilizations and others as part of more exclusively To'ul'h developments. The To'ul'h civilizations have had the greatest single xenosophont influence on Terragen culture. To'ul'h culture, already rich, grew even more so as the To'ul'hs and their various sophont descendants and creations spread outward from their homeworld, and they have been in contact with Terragens for longer than any other xenosophont group. Most importantly, the To'ul'hs and their descendant clades have proved to be surprisingly similar to humans and their posthuman descendants in many aspects of their mental and cultural development despite the profound physical differences between baseline To'ul'hs and baseline Humans. In fact, the founding Terragen and To'ul'h species are so similar in outlook, and had origins so close together in time and space, that To'ul'hs have been called humanity's twin. Those same coincidences have been the cause of much speculation by Progenitists, though no ancient link between Terra and To'ul'h has ever been conclusively proven, and serious scholars dismiss these parallels as matters of chance.

The To'ul'h homeworld, like Old Earth, was eventually commandeered by one of the Caretaker Gods, and is now more or less as it was before Terragen contact.




Description

Though they are beautiful and graceful to the accustomed eye, To'ul'hs have a bizarre and nightmarish appearance to Terragens who are accustomed only to standard Old Earth life. All baseline To'ul'h are sooty to jet black in standard Terragen vision. They mass between 40 and 100 kilograms depending on their sex and regional variety (baseline To'ul'hs included pygmy and giant races). Typically a male To'ul'h masses about 70 kilograms, while a female tips the scales at 63 kilograms. They are otherwise difficult to describe in terms of any Terragen life form. They have been compared to deep-sea octopi, to headless flying squirrels, to headless kangaroos, to skates or rays, and even to starfish. While these descriptions are suggestive, none of them are accurate. They are like Old Earth tetrapods in that they have a bony skeleton, bilateral symmetry, and four limbs, but the similarity ends there. Like the other members of their phylum, which is the dominant form of animal life on the surface of To'ul'h Prime, they are distantly descended from a line of sessile organisms similar in some ways to an Old Earth crinoid. As a result they retain traces of an ancestral tetraradial symmetry. The four limbs are attached to a central body that harbours the vital organs. The braincase is near the centre of the dorsal surface, and major nerve fibres radiate outwards to the four limbs. The forelimbs are smaller and end in grasping hands, while the hind limbs are stronger, heavier, and adapted to jumping, though they can also grasp objects in a crude way. Both hands and feet have eight digits: six fingers and two opposing thumbs, each ending in a retractable claw. The digits of the feet are much stouter and less dexterous, but either pair can grasp an object. A complex series of folds and flaps on the upper forward part of the body is concerned with the To'ul'h sense of hearing; the upper surface of a To'ul'h body is otherwise smooth.

The To'ul'h digestive tract begins with a set of sideways-opening mandibles. These are set between the forelimbs on the ventral surface. The oral cavity has a rasping tongue, but there are no teeth. Instead, the forepart of the stomach contains a gizzard and gizzard stones. The main stomach and the intestines are well inside in the central body; and the anus is on the ventral surface between the two hind limbs. Fat is deposited around the brain and internal organs, supplementing a rather thin and light skull. The To'ul'h excretory system produces liquids, and has a port near the anus.

The respiratory system is a pair of independent book-lungs between the fore and hind limbs. Each has a spiracle that opens onto the upper body surface. Normally air moves in and out through the spiracle on the upper surface, but the lung is also capable of converting to a gill-like flow-through system when a To'ul'h exerts itself, by opening slits in the ventral surface. This "turbocharged" breathing system allows rapid oxygen uptake and good evaporative cooling. However, a To'ul'h who breathes in this fashion needs to drink a great deal of water. Movements of the limbs in gliding or jumping helps pump air through the respiratory system, whether it is working as a lung or as a gill. Most of the sounds used in To'ul'h speech are produced by these organs. A similar but modified gill-lung between the forward pair of limbs serves as a "nose", and produces sounds for echolocation through a complex series of chambers. The rear lung is largely vestigial, though it does serve as a barometer to detect longer term pressure changes in the atmosphere. The To'ul'h circulatory system features three hearts: one to each lung-gill and one that circulates oxygenated blood from the lung-gills to the rest of the body.

To'ul'hs have an organ system, comparable to the water-vascular system of Old Earth echinoderms, that controls a set of small manipulatory appendages on the underside of the limbs. In the To'ul'h these allow a highly developed set of touch and taste and are another way for them to handle small objects. Their primitive function was to convey small items towards the mandibles along a set of food grooves.

As in some other representatives of their phylum, To'ul'h forelimbs contain organs that generate and detect electrical fields in very much the same manner as some Old Earth electrogenic fish. This sense is only fully operational in the water, though on land a To'ul'h can still detect the planetary magnetic field. Under water, however, it allows short range detection of prey that might otherwise remain hidden, even if it is concealed beneath sediment. Ancestral To'ul'hs used this sense to forage in streams, lakes, or tidal pools, or in puddles and ponds of the coastal swamps. A To'ul'h can create a mild shock with one of their electrochemical organs that is strong enough to stun small prey items, though it does not have a significant effect on larger organisms.

To'ul'hs have no external genitalia, but males have testes and the equivalent of a penis at the base of each of the arms (these have sometimes been compared to the pedipalps of Old Earth spiders), and the openings to the female genital tracts are also found where the arms join the body along the ventral surface. Holding hands and sexual activity are much more strongly associated in To'ul'h than in humans, and handholding may be a part of foreplay. The young, who are borne live, either singly or as twins, grow until birth in the central body cavity of the female.

Each limb has broad muscular retractable flaps, and when fully extended, these stick together along their edges to form a continuous surface, using the same dry adhesive properties that Old Earth geckos use to cling to a surface. They can also operate as pairs or completely independently of one another, depending on the degree of manoeuvrability required. There are eyespots along the upper dorsal surface near the brain-bulge and at the tips of the forelimbs, but these are small and not easily distinguished from the rest of the skin. To'ul'h skin is hard and leathery, and does not bear discernible scales, hairs, or feathers. The upper surface is smooth and glossy; the lower surface is rougher, with patches of dry adhesive comparable to an Old Earth gecko's foot pads. Usually these are associated with small projections associated with the water vascular system, and are used by To'ul'h to cling to a surface.




Communication, Senses, and Locomotion

To'ul'h are effectively blind, but they are not insensitive to light. Their eyespots allow them to detect sunlight, flashes of lightning, or even the phosphorescent life forms of their native environment. However, they cannot form images. For them, vision is a distant fifth sense. Their primary sense is echolocation. They use a range of different wavelengths for this purpose. Ultrasonic chirps in the 50 to 200 kilohertz range allow them to define features as small as half a millimetre, but such signals have a very short range; less than 20 metres. They use longer wavelength sounds to sense objects and the general terrain over longer distances, but such sounds do not provide the same sort of fine detail. This more general echolocation sense has a range of up to a kilometre under the right conditions. Ordinary passive hearing is also highly sophisticated, and To'ul'hs can learn a great deal about their environment simply by listening, without using sonar chirps. Of course, such a sense is adapted to their native dense atmosphere and would not be effective at Earth normal pressures. Unlike humans, To'ul'hs have the ability to shield their ears against loud sounds: a necessity given the dense atmosphere and frequent thunder storms of their home world.

The second major To'ul'h sense allows them to detect weak electrical or magnetic fields. To'ul'hs are able to detect planetary magnetic fields, the activity of distant electrical storms. Underwater it can detect and the bioelectrical fields of nearby animals. This latter sense has a range of less than a metre, but they can use it to detect small organisms that might be hidden beneath mud or sand or inside the stalks of saprophytes. As with their sonar sense, To'ul'hs can only use this sense by generating fields. To employ it is to announce their presence to any being with the ability to detect such fields.

To'ul'h touch is extremely sensitive as well, especially in their hands and generally along the ventral surface. The palps along their food grooves are an important source of information regarding textures, and they also provide some information through a sense comparable to that of taste. To'ul'h have a sharp sense of smell; baseline To'ul'h relied heavily on this sense to discover edible saprophytes and to track prey species.

To'ul'hs can move slowly along the ground by walking on all fours, or somewhat more swiftly by hopping on their hind legs. They are also good climbers in the cliffs and in the fungal forests of their native habitats. Their hands and foot-hands, the claws at the end of their fingers and toes, and gecko-like pads on their ventral surface help them cling to surfaces. However, their primary mode of rapid or long distance movement is a series of jump-glides, supplemented by some flapping flight. They cannot gain significant altitude, but remain within a few metres of the ground unless they are able to use an updraft. This allows them to maintain the equivalent of a human jog or run over considerable distances. If local air movement is favourable, they may coast for a considerable distance. They can "fly" underwater by trimming back the size of their limb membranes and flapping as they do in the air, though of course they must return to the surface to breathe. Long distance travel over and in the water includes short bursts of swimming followed by long glides over the water surface somewhat in the manner of an Old Earth flying fish. The To'ul'h jump-glide depends on a high air density, or on extremely low gravity. Some To'ul'hmorphed Terragens living at Earth-normal temperatures and pressures have been able to accomplish the same movements in low acceleration habs or on very small blueskyed moons.




Lifespan and Reproduction

Despite the fact that they are so radically different in their physiology, biochemistry, and anatomy, baseline To'ul'hs are remarkably similar to baseline humans in their reproduction. Like humans they have two sexes, bear their young live and usually singly (rarely as twins), are pair bonding, and raise their young through a long period of dependency. The male is usually, but not always, the more active partner in courtship and as in humans is typically less discriminating concerning potential mates or sexual partners. The females are slightly smaller than the males, and like humans feed their young with special secretions in early infancy and provide most of the early child care. As with humans, males (usually the fathers of the children, or more occasionally their uncles) typically provide additional support to the female and infant when the child is young, and usually are involved to a greater or lesser extent in raising and training children after infancy as well. Childbirth is not as great a hazard for To'ul'h females as it is for human females, but in low technology societies, pregnancy is very inconvenient; some modes of To'ul'h locomotion such as the jump-glide are completely unavailable in later pregnancy, even though newborn To'ul'hs are smaller in proportion to adults than are human infants. Likewise, a female carrying an infant who has yet to learn to jump-glide has a very limited range. Perhaps as a result, pair bonds are even stronger in To'ul'hs than in humans, and in most cultures the social or legal penalties for infidelity or abandonment by either party are more severe in proportion. A newborn weighs about one kilogram, and can crawl from birth, though jumping comes at one year and jump-gliding is not fully developed until the age of five years. Infants cling to the undersides of their parents (usually the mothers) when they are very young, or may ride on their backs when they are older but still unable to move at adult speeds. Baseline To'ul'hs had a natural lifespan of 80 to 100 years.




Environmental Requirements

Baseline To'ul'h are accustomed to a gravity approximately 20% greater than that of Old Earth. Their optimum environmental temperature is 135 degrees Celsius, though they can survive temperatures of 150 degrees or more for short periods if they move slowly and have access to water so that they can breathe heavily to cool themselves. A To'ul'h is unable to survive without clothing and shelter at temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius. Earthlike atmospheric pressures are immediately fatal to a To'ul'h; their bodily fluids begin to boil away. They prefer pressures of 70 atmospheres, though they can survive long term at as little as 50 and can tolerate shorter term exposures to pressures as low as 10. They need oxygen, at values no less than 7% and no greater than 15%. Water on the surface of To'ul'h is strongly acidic due to carbonic acid from the high carbon dioxide fraction in the atmosphere and due to small quantities of sulphuric acid from the sulphur compounds in standard To'ul'h air. Neutral or alkaline water causes long term health problems. Most To'ul'h can drink salty water, and excrete excess salt through their digestive system as part of their solid wastes. The degree to which they can do this varied originally according to regional types in the baseline To'ul'h population, since bodies of water on the surface of To'ul'h Prime vary from fresh to hypersaline. Like all of the life forms native to To'ul'h Prime, To'ul'hs require considerably more sulphur than do Terragen bionts, and small quantities of tin and mercury are essential elements in their metabolism. To'ul'h find bright light of any kind painful. Ultraviolet light causes severe sunburn.




Psychology

To'ul'h baselines are remarkably similar to human baselines in psychology and in their modes of intelligence, so much so that some Progenitist groups have suggested some ancient connection between the two. Their similar reproductive habits have already been noted. They are also like humans in that they were originally omnivorous foragers who hunted or gathered in small cooperative groups and shared food within the band along lines of kinship and mutual obligation. Like humans, they ranged over long distances, and were largely terrestrial, but are descended from more arboreal species. The result is that humans and To'ul'hs understand one another rather well, and find one another almost reassuringly predictable. However, there are significant differences. For instance, To'ul'h are less fearful of heights as a rule (since they can glide), and much more fearful of inclement weather. Heavy winds can mean extreme injury in the dense atmosphere of To'ul'h Prime. The famous "Steam Hurricanes" are particularly deadly. Not only may they tumble an unanchored To'ul'h helplessly along the ground, breaking bones, but they may hurl victims into the hellishly cold upper air. On rare occasions, parcels of clear air allow sunlight to reach the surface, blinding eyespots and even burning skin. Traditional To'ul'h cultures always placed Hell in the skies, whereas Heaven is hot, dark, still, and damp. To'ul'h have a love of warm water and hot springs comparable to that of humans, though To'ul'h spas have also been compared to the baths of the Muuh as well.

The original To'ul'h were primarily nocturnal, though they sometimes also foraged during the day. The fact that they are nearly blind, and that their primary sense is sonar, has had a tremendous impact on their ways of thinking. Sound, and the qualities of sound, are primary metaphors in To'ul'h language. So too with their electrical sense. Because it is short range, it is an intimate form of communication, with no good equivalent in human terms.

The To'ul'h also have some similarities to the Muuh, perhaps because of the fact that they both live in dim environments in which food is produced in the upper atmosphere, and do not rely on sight. To'ul'h, for instance, claim to understand aspects of Muuh poetry that have always baffled humans and similar Terragens.

Like humans and like many of the clades descended or derived from humans, the To'ul'h show a high frequency of aggressively curious or ambitious individuals. Great conquerors, philosophers, and artists are common, and in most To'ul'h cultures are greatly admired. Perhaps as a result, baseline To'ul'hs had a high rate of toposophic ascension from the very start of their contact with Terragens, and there are many known post-To'ul'hs. Baseline and nearbaseline To'ul'hs have shown a very human-like propensity for aggression, both within and between societies, and their history both before and after Terragen contact has been fully as turbulent as that of Old Earth. Likewise, and again like Terragens, the adventurous To'ul'h psyche has meant a strong urge to explore and colonize and an equally strong tendency to develop into new clades.

The baseline To'ul'h species has a natural talent and affinity for technology, similar to that of human baselines, that under other conditions would have lead to fairly rapidly to Industrial, Information, and Interplanetary civilizations. As may be seen from the response of the To'ul'h to Terragen contact, only the particulars of their situation kept the To'ul'h from expanding beyond their planet on their own.




Society

The original set of To'ul'h societies has an extraordinary depth of history, and was arguably much more diverse than that of Old Earth. Advances comparable to writing, the wheel, and agriculture were achieved tens of thousands of years before the first human civilization. Though no one To'ul'h culture lasted more than eight or nine thousand years, there are beliefs, technologies, traditions, and even the equivalent of written records dating back as far as 70,000 years BT. Though they never developed an Industrial age, the To'ul'h in the settled regions of their planet were heirs to a culture more sophisticated and ancient than anything experienced by Old Earth humans before the advent of interplanetary technologies. Even tribes living the simplest and most primitive material lives had a sense of continuity with ancient events. The resulting diversity is impossible to describe in anything but the most general terms.

Because of unique factors in To'ul'h history, philosophies emphasizing balance and harmony tended to predominate over more aggressive change-based schools of thought, but To'ul'h nature is remarkably similar to human nature and had a startlingly similar set of expressions. It is safe to say that nearly any school of thought or belief ever conceived of by humans up to the end of the Interplanetary Age had its expression somewhere on To'ul'h Prime, sometimes more than once. Terragen Humanists, Christians, Marxists, Taoists, Capitalists, Etodists, Neoplatonists, Confucians, Fascists, Hindus, Negentropists, Stoics, and many other groups have all have their cognates somewhere on To'ul'h Prime, either among To'ul'h Prime's living cultures or somewhere in the planet's long history. The subtle differences and the eerie similarities between To'ul'h philosophies, religions, political movements and their Terragen equivalents have quite understandably been a continuing source of interest to scholars, and a continuing source of wonder, revulsion, amusement, or controversy among partisans of these belief systems.

To'ul'h music and art has been profoundly influenced by their dependence on sound over sight. A development particular to the To'ul'h is polmusic, a combination of politics, poetry, music, logic, and rhetoric. One needs to be a To'ul'h to experience its full persuasive force, though some Terragens (notably some sophonts of cetacean ancestry) claim to have a grasp of its essentials. Ancestral polmusic disciplines were widespread and ancient on To'ul'h Prime itself, but it reached its fullest development after Terragen contact in the Ho'mth'u culture in the Morogai system in the late 35th century. It has since become an essential element of To'ul'h and post-To'ul'h culture.

Another unique aspect of ancient To'ul'h culture, still a metaphor in some traditional religions, is ritual cannibalism. In many of the older and denser agricultural centres, animal flesh was a rare commodity. Like humans, baseline To'ul'hs are omnivores, and require either some meat or a careful balance of other foods for optimum health. In many parts of the planet, and especially in the cultures of the Narrow Seas region, this led to ritual consumption of the dead by the kin of the deceased. The echoes of those practices are still strong in baseline and nearbaseline To'ul'hs whose cultures are descended from those of the great cities of the homeworld, though of course, in the millennia since, many To'ul'h and post-To'ul'h have forgotten the practice, and there are some homeworld cultures (notably the nomads of the uplands) that never knew it.

To'ul'hs do not have the usual graphic arts known to humans, except in the form of textures and incisions on a suitable surface. Their written records are designed to be detectable by touch or by sonar: glyphs or ideographs carved into a surface, or runic inscriptions, or Braille-like bumps and hollows, depending on the language and culture. Sculptures are usually intended to be pleasing to the touch, or to give interesting patterns when scanned with a sonar chirp.

To'ul'h of the lowlands did not wear clothes, other than professional equipment (aprons, tool belts, armour, etc.), though they did often wear beads, or in some cultures decorated their skin with patterns of scars. Those of the highlands wore protection against the cold and tended to consider it impolite or even obscene not to enclose the main body (though arms, legs, and the flaps between them remained free).

As an agricultural species for nearly 100,000 years of history, the To'ul'h have an extraordinarily deep and rich set of traditions around gardening and farming for practical or aesthetic reasons. The shape and styles of To'ul'h gardens varied strongly according to culture, from various pseudo-naturalistic designs to highly abstract formal patterns, and from nearly barren arrangements of rock and sand to lush well-watered landscapes. Though they are designed to appeal to sonar or the sense of smell rather than sight, and employ fungi and saprophytes in place of plants, humans find them surprisingly pleasant to look upon, though of course To'ul'h gardens lack any colours other than black or white or various phosphorescent blooms, and the scents they give off tend to be sulphurous and pleasant only to To'ul'hese life.

There are as many styles of To'ul'h architecture as there are of human architecture, but the To'ul'hs are much more inclined than humans to create substantial stone or subterranean structures, or collapsible tent-like structures, to resist or avoid the powerful but slow surface winds. Another important difference arises from the To'ul'h ability to glide long distances. To'ul'h generally regard upper windows and balconies as preferred exit points from a building. Some of the most famous great To'ul'h cities are built on cliffs or steep hillsides, or in the ravines of the great rivers that run down from the continental plateaus. In such places the houses of the wealthy are most often at the highest points, since for a To'ul'h this give access to a broad region of the lower part of a town or city; one need only launch oneself from a suitable elevation.

A fear of the bright turbulent overworld, with its killing chill, its lightning and thunder, and its burning ultraviolet rays is innate in every baseline and nearbaseline To'ul'h. Most of the planet-bound cultures believed the upper regions to be hell, or at the least a metaphor for a hellish state. This caused considerable fear and suspicion when the To'ul'h were first contacted by Terragens, since they came from above.




History

Like humans, To'ul'hs lived for a long "Stone Age" as bands of foragers who ranged within a home territory and interacted occasionally through trade, warfare, and limited intermarriage. They were most common where they first evolved, along the shores of the seas at the edge of continental shelves, and on the chains of islands along the mid-ocean ridges, where they foraged along the shores, in the "fungal" "swamp-forests" and on the open plains of saprophytes in the upland regions. A few invaded the harsh continental plateaus, but most of these lived along lake shores or along the river valleys leading down to the lowlands. These ancient To'ul'h tribes knew the use of fire (a less potent instrument than on Old Earth due to the lower oxygen content of the atmosphere), used pottery, wove baskets, fashioned tools from local obsidian or from the sturdiest fungal stalks, and generally lived in a fashion that might, with suitable translations, seem familiar to many an Old Earth human hunter-gatherer, or for that matter to the most extreme human Prims of modern times.

Gradually, about 100,000 years ago, the To'ul'h drifted into an Agricultural Age. Since many of the saprophytic life forms on the surface reproduce by spores, not seeds, and since any one area has less reliable productivity, and since the surface waters of To'ul'h Prime's lakes and oceans are not especially productive, this was not a rapid process. Archaeologists have compared this to the limited and very slow development of agriculture-like practices in Old Earth's Australia, where some of the same factors also applied. Nevertheless, by approximately 95,000 years ago, the first towns and cities grew up along To'ul'h Prime's seas and major rivers.

To'ul'h "agriculture", rather like human agriculture, consisted largely of providing water and organic matter, planting appropriate organisms (spores or seeds or the gemmules of sponge-like life forms, or the larvae of sedentary suspension-feeding animals) and removing undesirable growths and exterminating herbivores or parasites. Likewise "pastoralism" entailed use of herds of domesticated or semi-domesticated species, accustomed to and bred by To'ul'h attendants. However the similarities are only superficial. To'ul'h Prime's surface does not know seasons, but it does know unpredictable and long-term fluctuations in local climate. Likewise the masses of organic matter on the surface can develop in unexpected ways, according to shifts in temperature, the nature of the rain of nutrients from above, rainfall, and most of all interactions amongst the saprophytic species. All of this is affected by boom and bust cycles in the productivity of the overlying layers in the upper atmosphere, which are themselves difficult or impossible to predict. Finally, the surface of To'ul'h is not a source of primary production, and therefore offers a limited output per hectare compared to the plants of a standard Gaian world. This fundamentally less rich and reliable food supply shaped the Agricultural Age of the To'ul'h. Many of the longest-lived cultures survived by using highly sophisticated management techniques and multi-species mixes, known as polycultures, and living at relatively low settlement densities. However, they were often outshone or overrun by shorter-lived cultures that blossomed in favourable conditions and that crumbled (sometimes taking more stable and potentially longer lived neighbouring civilizations with them) when they overran the local resources or when conditions changed. The long term effect of this has been that many of the To'ul'h religions and philosophies have a strong component that resembles aspects of Old Earth Taoism, Shintoism, or "Green" Conservationism. Often these beliefs were tied to or implicit in folkways that preserved long-term survival at the expense of short-term development. Naturally, there were counter-movements in To'ul'h thought, particularly in civilizations founded on a local burst of productivity. The intermittent Skywhaler cultures are a prime example of this phenomenon. These were widely regarded as impractical or even evil by more traditional thinkers. This polarity between what some Terragens have called the "Prometheans" (the advocates of progress, even reckless progress) and the "Sysipheans" (the advocates of balance, harmony, and persistence) eventually had its fruit in the conflicts between To'ul'h Homeworlder and Spacer factions in the years following Terragen contact.

The impact of agriculture on To'ul'h societies was muted, but the impact of Industrial Age technology was even smaller. The advent of metallurgy did not have the same result on To'ul'h as on Earth, in part because most alloys do not survive well under humid and acidic conditions that prevail on the surface. Metals generally were held in high regard, but this was as much because of their odd and magical-seeming appearance to the To'ul'h electrical sense as for their utility. Steam engines were developed, though they were not as important because it takes a hot fire to develop steam at all in the high pressures of To'ul'h Prime's atmosphere. Most important of all, however, was the fact that coal, oil, and gas deposits are practically nonexistent on the planet. The energy subsidy that boosted the Terragens through the Industrial age and into the Interplanetary Age simply did not exist. Electricity was discovered early, due to the fact that electrical effects can be sensed directly by the To'ul'h, but it was never highly developed. Balloons and dirigibles were an early development based on the various floating life forms, but they never saw widespread use, since gathering and maintaining the necessary gases from natural floating mats, or heating the air in them from biofuels, was expensive. Perhaps for these reasons, there never was a dramatic onset of scientific thought, and science never became the distinct discipline that it did on Old Earth. For instance, at the time of contact educated To'ul'h in the most complex civilizations were aware that their world was round and was millions of years old, and had constructed the equivalent of a periodic table of the elements, and could if desired build chemical batteries or internal combustion engines, but this knowledge saw only local and specialized application. Rail lines between the Narrow Sea's major cities were at some periods traveled by carts that were driven by methane-powered engines, or by oils refined from harvests of cloudforest plants taken from the high atmosphere. Such vehicles were expensive toys of the aristocracy, however, or the tools of elite couriers and diplomats, and never saw broad application.

The constant rise and fall of civilizations in To'ul'h history was not entirely a cycle of futility. Eventually a common language (the ancestor of To'ul'hoss) and an associated meta-culture of knowledge grew up; a way for scholars across the ages to communicate with one another, as well as for To'ul'h traders and diplomats from distant regions to carry out their business. This language had the status that Sanskrit, or Latin, or the written form of Chinese, assumed in Old Earth's human societies, but it was even more influential and eventually became universal on To'ul'h Prime. Texts that are thousands of years old can still be read by educated To'ul'h, and written history in the Braille-like texts favoured by the To'ul'hoss speakers extends back tens of thousands of years. The calendar still in use by many To'ul'h descended clades dates back to an ancient ceremonial calendar devised in the Narrow Seas region, many thousands of years ago.

Terragen contact began in 3831 AT, when the famous S1 explorer Fortunate Cloud, an agent of the Mutual Progress Association, used an exploration nanoswarm to study the biosphere of To'ul'h Prime and found the To'ul'h civilizations that had been hidden beneath the clouds. Long-range observations and an earlier more cursory exploration of the system had missed the To'ul'h entirely, though of course they had noted that To'ul'h Prime was a lifebearing world. Over a period of 180 years, Fortunate Cloud was joined by other representatives of the Terragens, who studied the To'ul'h and debated a course of action. Eventually the interventionist factions prevailed, and a carefully selected contact team was sent down to the planet surface. In a gradual series of revelations, they introduced the most complex civilizations of To'ul'h Prime to Terragen technologies and cultures. A major barrier proved to be the fact that the Terragens came from the sky. Many ordinary To'ul'h and quite a few of their greatest leaders had the same reaction that even the most sophisticated humans might have had if emissaries had emerged from the fiery bowels of the earth during the Agricultural Age. This lingering image of the Terragens as devils, and of those who dealt with them as corrupted by the representatives of Hell, laid the seeds of later conflict. So too did the contrast between some of the most dynamic Terragen memetics and that of the most sophisticated (and successful) To'ul'h customs and beliefs.

Nevertheless, most of the To'ul'h proved highly receptive to human technology and ideas. Within a mere 300 years of first contacts there were To'ul'h civilizations that had fully absorbed S<1 level Terragen technology, and they had constructed several orbiting habitats of their own. They began to interact with several of the Terragen clades, and the first To'ul'h transapients and modified post-To'ul'h clades had already begun to emerge. There were, of course, several serious setbacks and incidents along the way. The most famous of these was the riot at the Terragen O'Neill Eithne, resulting from a misunderstanding concerning the intent some Terragen "Venusian" tweaks at a To'ul'h funeral ceremony. Both Terragens and To'ul'hs lost their lives to xenosophont action that day.

Over the next millennium, To'ul'h groups became part of the human community, settling on and To'ulhforming other Cytherean planets, modifying themselves, building their own AIs and creating their own distinct To'ul'h-human creole. To'ul'h-inhabited worlds existed alongside human worlds, sometimes with no contact, sometimes with busy trade.

The spacefaring To'ul'hs from the interstellar colonies and the To'ul'hs of the homeworld and home system diverged more and more over this time. The Spacers tried to help or convince the stay-at-homes to join the greater Terragen sphere, while conservative groups in the home system, the Homeworlders, increasingly regarded the Spacers as a menace tainted by alien ideas and technologies. In 4211 the first To'ul'h-To'ul'h war occurred, when a Spacer faction attempted to seize power on To'ul'h to "administer the needs of the future". The attempt failed, but was repeated a few decades later, leading to a brief period of technocratic dictatorship. In 4328 the Homeworlders (with some volunteer help from a variety of sympathetic Terragen groups) staged a bloody revolution and ousted the Spacers.

The Spacers organized themselves and began to plan for the final assault, which in the ordinary course of events would have been successful. However, in 4645 one of the Caretaker Gods made an unexpected intervention. The "god" calling eirself Smoking Mirror (O'hoth'so'toh), declared To'ul'h eir domain; and announced e would destroy any entity that trespassed on the Compact of Eden in the system. After some hothead Spacers attempted a pre-emptive attack and Smoking Mirror dispatched them with trivial ease, the aggressive arm of the Spacer movement lost power within the To'ul'h sphere, and turned its energies outwards, towards exploration and development elsewhere in the Arm.

Since then the To'ul'hs outside of the home system have diverged into two directions. The human-creoles have continued close interactions with humans, becoming one species among many others (often employed to survey and colonize Cytherian or hot Gaian worlds). Another fraction, influenced by some Homeworlder ideas, became isolationists and refused all contact with the rest of the civilized galaxy. It is believed they are building their own empire in the space beyond IC6633. Some of these, though not the majority, are known to have adopted various To'ul'h versions of Hider beliefs. As with the Terragens proper, the To'ul'hs have many descendant cyborg, provolve, vec, and AI clades. By policy the To'ul'h homeworld remains accessible to any and all To'ul'hs and post-To'ul'hs, and to the sophont universe at large, regardless of beliefs. Under Smoking Mirror's protection, any and all belief systems are allowed in the home system, as long as they are neither imposed on an unwilling populace nor disruptive of the To'ul'h homeworld's ecology. It is notable that descendants of the ancient Homeworlder ethos are dominant in the cultures of To'ul'h Prime itself.

To'ul'h society has produced some great statesbeings, among the foremost being Ho'th'hss'lho. Others include To'h'hshls'ho, Ho'h'h'l'l'h, H'to'hs'hssl'o, and H't'lo'h'ss'so'h.

Mention should also be made of the school of Seniis-2, which popularized the idea of Cytherean "terraformers" for many years before the concept was finally rejected by xenopaleontologists. Today it is of influence only to the historians of ideas, and for the part it played in the development of early Re-evaluation Age Progenitism. The strong parallels between Terragen and To'ul'hese biology, the extraordinary coincidence that both humans and To'ul'hs arose within the same million year period, the mental similarities between To'ul'hs and humans, and even some remarkable parallels between certain of To'ul'h Prime's Narrow Seas cultures and some human cultures (most notably those of Central America), and finally some enigmatic ruins, possibly a hoax, discovered on the To'ul'h homeworld, have meant that both Terragen and To'ul'hese clades have been susceptible to Progenitist thought, though most educated folk reject these beliefs.

 
Articles
  • First Contact  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Strategies and policies for contact with alien life forms (xenobiota) and Xenosophonts (intelligent alien life).
  • Ho'th'hss'lho  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Post-To'u'l scholar and politician. Ho'th'hss'lho grew up on Thu'to'lhu'hu (Vanguin I) in the 7400's, acting as a research art administrator. In 7489 e uploaded to one of the Laugan-To'u'l nanohabitats in Vanguin orbit. Over the next 40 years Ho'th'hss'lho branched into several copies, interlinking them with unityware to form a clan intellect. The emerging intelligence began an intense academic career, publishing major works in structics and polmusic that gave e a wide renown in the MPA.
  • Ho'th'hss'lho University - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Located on Morogai (also called Ho'th'lhu'ooht), Ho'th'hss'lho University is an important nexus of post-To'u'l and posthuman education. It is based around the Power Ho'th'hss'lho.
  • Morogai (also called Ho'th'lhu'ooht) - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Planet where in 5840 the statesbeing and power Ho'th'hss'to'luh underwent ascencion to at least second singularity level, possibly more. The computronium conglomerate housing the post-To'u'l association has become known as Ho'th'hss'lho University, an important nexus of post-To'u'l and posthuman education in the middle region MPA.
  • Polmusic - Text by Anders Sandberg
    To'ul'hs of the Ho'mth'u culture view politics and music as an indivisible unity, and have developed political music as an art form. Over time polmusic has become a nearly universal political language across To'ul'h and post-To'ul'h clades within the MPA, as well as an elaborate academic-artistic discipline.
  • Sagan Drift, The  - Text by Bill Ernoehazy
    The site of the first contact with To'ul'hs by Fortunate Cloud. From here, e catalogued the rich ecosystem of this world.
  • Seniis-2, Seniisism  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg
    The influential school of Seniis-2 (Eden Institute) argued that the To'ul'hs are not natural organisms, but rather the result of biogenetic engineered life-forms from a lost race (the "To'ul'hogenitors") that decided to seed a number of To'ul'hian-type planets.
  • Shur'rooss'hur  - Text by Steve Bowers
    A domesticated beast on To'ul'h Prime, about the size of a Shetland Pony.
  • To'ul'h Calendar, The  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    An ancient timekeeping system, known as 'Ha'ts'ul in the To'ul'hoss language, that formed an important part of the transcultural memeplex that linked the various To'ul'h cultures across barriers of time and geography for tens of thousands of years before Terragen contact. It still bears powerful cultural significance for many To'ul'h and post-To'ul'h cultures, and for some Terragens as well.
  • To'ul'h Prime, Tohul  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    The homeworld of the To'ul'h species. It is a hot gardenworld of the unique To'ul'hian type, and the richest known, comparable to Old Earth in the richness and diversity of its life. It has long been under the rule of a Caretakerist transapient.
  • To'ul'hian Worlds  - Text by Stephen Inniss, based on the original concept by Anders Sandberg
    To'ul'hian worlds are an unusual variety of world named after the most famous of them, the homeworld of the To'ul'h. They might be regarded as a cool and wet version of the Cytherean type, or as very hot high-pressure Gaian worlds.
  • To'ul'ho'lo'ss - Text by Stephen Inniss, after the original by Anders Sandberg
    To'ul'h language of ancient origin, traditionally used in record keeping and for intercultural and international communication. A pidgin version is used among their various post-to'ul'h clades and with humans or other xenosophonts.
  • To'ul'human - Text by Steve Bowers
    Homorph To'ul'h who have been given or adopted human shape by advanced biotech. They also can take To'ul'h form in earthlike environments or adapted human form in toulovenusian environments.
  • Vanguin I - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Also known as Thu'to'lhu'hu - birthplace of Ho'th'hss'lho, contains habitats and databanks on the surface and in orbit.
  • Xenobiont  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Generic term for alien (non-terragen) lifeform. May be animal-like, plant-like, protistan, exotic chemistry, or any other possibility. Does not have to be sophont. In fact just as on Earth, very few alien species ever evolve any measure of cognitive intelligence.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss; original concept and some text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 26 June 2006.

Updated february 2014