|Official Name||Kalmian Spineback|
|Common Nicknames||Spbake Fisk|
The Kalmian Spineback is a fish unique to the Kalm Lakes of Cain. As an anadromous fish, they swim through the various streams and rivers that feed the Lakes to breed. As a result, all of the nearby Velheim nations are supplied with food every autumn in a predictable fashion. In ancient times, it was said to be easier as the fish never “fought back” like they do today; their sharp spines are known to hurt animals hunting them as well as fishermen, and damage their tools. Regardless, the Kalmian Spineback remains a constant source of food for the local people around the Kalm Lakes and are viewed as a delicacy by non-Cain Velheim and some foreigners.
The Kalmian Spineback has a limited history, masked by the wild land it calls home. Some believe it to be a distant cousin to some species known to exist today across the wider North Belt and were notated at the time of Altalar explorations into what was then the edge of Drovv territory. The first true records of the Spineback begin back several centuries before the Cataclysm, when the first Velheim reached what is now Cain, having already morphed from their prior form, that of the Proto-Velheim. In this time however, the crude bands and tribes that settled the continent spoke of a plentiful, easy-to-catch fish in the region’s streams and small lakes, abundant in supply. After the Cataclysm, and possibly as a result of low-level Void mutation, the fish was reported to be more dangerous. The males had grown sharp spines that cut old nets and hurt palms, resulting in unhindered growth for the animal for a number of years as the Cainian Velheim recovered from the chaos of their continent’s many changes, and also sought out new ways to catch the spined fish. Eventually, the Velheim people and other animals adapted to the animal’s physical change. Since then, the Kalmian Spineback has been a staple of the region and has also become a symbol of the Union of Air, as the spines are viewed as a gift from Basjtur to defend the fish from the hostile world around itand the male Spineback’s unique mating dance is thanks to the influence of Mærsjel. During the phenomena of Mershell’s Dance that sometimes reaches the region, the locals sacrifice Spinebacks to honor the Union.
The Kalmian Spineback is a medium-sized fish, reaching between a foot to a foot and a half while their weight varies between one to two pounds. The Spineback’s scaleless head possesses a protruding lower lip on an upturned mouth, and a pair of large, rounded eyes dashed with shades of brown or gray. Behind this sits the gills with membraned, pointed fins located further on the fish’s posterior. An inch behind this and upon their back begins the spines which are paired on either side of a short, soft, and spineless dorsal fin. There are four or five pairs of spines on a male while females possess only three. These spines are translucent, sharp, and rest “down” for much of the year. The forked tail ends off the creature while the anal fin appears similar to the dorsal fin but has been cut down in size. For females, between this anal fin and the pectoral fin, another pair of spines can always be found. Aside from the head, the Kalmian Spineback’s whole body is covered in pale green or gray scales which gradient to white as one gets closer to their belly. Along the top and bottom of each side beneath or above each pair of spines also exist a pair of black circles which can allow someone to determine the fish's gender easily. Their fins are all translucent but are tinged with gray.
The Kalmian Spineback has an evident divide between the sexes. Males appear larger with more spines and black spots on their bodies while females are smaller with fewer needles, though they bear an additional pair of spines that males do not have. Their population meanwhile is largely in flux, constantly changing on a yearly basis. As for the gender ratio, there is an inclination towards males with roughly 40% of the species being females at peak time before the mating season. Their color patterns, aside from the black spots, are random and do not have any bearing on the individual.
Life Span and Development
Kalmian Spinebacks are born in large clusters of ten to thirty small pink, green eggs. These are laid inside small holes created by their fathers upriver from the bodies of water that make up the Kalm Lakes. They remain in these eggs for a week as the father continues to protect them in the swirl of mating season. After that time, hundreds of minuscule Spinebacks hatch and over the end of autumn, they slowly return to the Kalm Lakes as they feed and grow along the way. Upon reaching the sea, they spend two years physically maturing while mentally, they are very simple creatures. The reason they wait is that it takes a long time for their spines to come in properly. Once those two years pass, the fish can successfully make the journey upstream when mating season comes.
Once it has survived the treacherous journey, the male digs a small hole into the waterbed before lining it with some algae or plant fibers. After that, they will manipulate their spines up and down as they swim around in an elaborate mating dance which is almost always unique to the individual Spineback. Females approach them and if they chose to mate with the male, proceed into the hole and lay a section of their eggs before departing. The male continues to do his dance as he attracts females for twelve hours before he proceeds into the hole and fertilizes them. He then stays and protects the eggs for the next week, fanning them, adding more algae, and occasionally accepting more eggs if his hole numbers are low. After that time, the male will depart for the sea to repeat the process yearly until they die. They can live up to ten years though most rarely make it past two or three years.
The Kalmian Spineback is a simple fish throughout much of its lifetime with little to no care in the world. In all other seasons but autumn, the fish swims in the Kalm Lakes in schools of both sexes, feeding when it can and only raising its spines in self-defense or when severely startled. Once autumn comes, this behavior grows more complex. Both sexes perk their spines until they are done mating before letting them slowly rest as they return to the Lakes. Males exhibit a heightened level of care for females as they will often “escort” females upriver, jumping in the way of danger for the other sex. The male also cares for his children, providing them with food for when they pupate and grow but ultimately leaving them once this urge has gone. A mystery of the Spineback, however, is their mating dance. The seeming individuality of each has baffled casual onlookers with many locals feeling the fish each have personalities. For biologists, they take a more callous approach, and the majority believe it is just mad flailing caused by sexual heat.
Territory and Groupings
Kalmian Spinebacks exist in large schools of 50 to 100 fish that swim around the Inner Kalm Sea in a ceaseless pattern to search for food. These schools are almost always of birth mates early on, formed from the survivors of the trek downriver from where they were spawned. As time passes, however, these groups pull apart and mash together with the onset of autumn, at which point schools combine. Each “mega-school” then tackles the major rivers that run into their Kalm Lake of origin. These schools have almost uncountable numbers, but the best guess is that each is some 1000 strong.
- Kalmian Spineback spines are hard growths of an unknown substance that appears similar to bone. They only nominally connected to the fish’s spine which allows them to be easily removed by fishermen with some even suitable for the ironic tool of fish hooks.
- In Cain Folkar communities especially but to a lesser extent the surrounding nations, how you serve a Kalmian Spineback can be very significant. If you give an adult an adolescent fish, for example, the message is usually that they are young and foolish or if you give a male a still barbed fish, it means you consider him a warrior. The ultimate insult, however, is serving a male a female fish with all the spines removed, meaning you consider them weak and effeminate.
- Kalmian Spineback eggs are considered the greatest delicacy in Cain due to how hard it is to collect them. If a male’s death regarding their nest is noted by the school, northern fishermen report an eerie stillness befalls of the school before they almost go mad and swarm any foreign living beings in the water in what might only be called “desperate revenge.”
- During the phenomena of Mærsjel’s Dance that sometimes reaches the region, the locals sacrifice Spinebacks to honor the Union of Air.