THE COPPER LOPSTERE ("COBSTER", "LOBSTER")

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING - USAGES - MYTH/LORE - RECEIPT

This unusual sea creature, while by no means rare, is prized for its delicately sweet meat which resides in an equally-desirable metallic shell. Its higher cost comes from the relative difficulty of catching and processing a large armoured sea beast with two strong front claws, and the low ratio of meat to shell. It can be found along most rocky sea coasts across Caelereth, with some regional varieties. The Copper Lopstere is also referred to by names like "Cobster", "Lopstere", "Lop", "Lob", "Lobster", "Craykin" or "Clawkin".

Appearance.
The Lopstere resembles its commoner small cousin of Sarvonian streams, the Crawfish or Pincher, but grotesquely enlarged. It runs about four hands to two fores long, though some have been captured at over a ped here in Sarvonia, and the Nybelmarnian clan are greater still. The entire creature is armoured with a segmented copper shell, even its head and legs.

The Copper Lopstere

View picture in full size  Picture description. The shiny Copper Lopstere - a crustacean whose shell is infused with actual copper ore, which oxidizes and distresses in his saltwater habitat to create spectacular armour... Image drawn by Bard Judith.

There are three main parts to the body armour: the 'helm' or head segment which is shaped roughly like a truncated cone, the 'cuirass' or torso covering shaped like a natural breast and backplate, and the various slender rings of shell which make up the tapering flat tail. From beneath the sides of the cuirass sprout six legs, three to a side, also armoured with greaves of shell, spiked here and there with natural protrusions. The two front legs make up one of the most dramatic features of the beast, as they are thicker and armed with double 'grippers', or claws, which meet like a pair of broad-bladed scissors designed by a mad Kurakim dwarf. These puffy, serrated-edged claws are used for defense and for gripping objects, but seemingly not for catching prey or attacking others. A great deal of the soft, blue-veined meat is in these two front claws, so the larger, the better, from a sentient perspective...

At the end of the helm two bulbous black eyes are able to be thrust out on short stalks or withdrawn into the protection of the helm. Just beneath that is a fringed and serrated opening for a mouth; there are no teeth, but two ragged plates of extremely hard, metallic shell which meet and grind together. Two tiny fin-like 'hands' wave on either side of the aperture, obviously to assist in capturing food and pushing it into the mouth. Like many fish, the beast does not appear to have ears or a nose, but it must have some sensory organs which take their place...

The shell material itself is highly unusual, seeming to be partly organic, like a man's nails or teeth, but also permeated with the ore of copper. It encrusts and oxidizes as the lob ages, so that the shell becomes a dramatic bluish-green dappled with shining copper and dark copper patches. This dappling can be so pronounced as to form obvious markings resembling print, or subtle, like sunlight through leaves.

Its interior is peculiarly designed, with fluttering, feathery 'leaves' at the sides of its head like a fish's gills, which seem to move water constantly through the lop's body. It also has various strange organs which do not resemble our common earth dwellers, though a heart and stomach are identifiable. Most of the interior and the organs are also turkoise-hued or white with turkoise veinings - 'coral', glands, guts, and the various fluids and secretions.

There are some slight external variants in appearance, depending upon territory - which see below. Return to the top

Special Abilities. Fishermen say that the Lob has a 'spike in his heart' which keeps him alive forever; they claim that the Lopstere does not die naturally, but only through being caught by a man or a larger fish. Upon our inspection of a number of Lobs, we verified that there is indeed a peculiar metallic spicule, about the length of a finger joint and about the thickness of a quill - indeed, almost exactly formed like a headless nail - which curves slightly around the beast's heart, protecting it as our ribs do ours. May we speculate that this "Lobspike" might make a remarkably effective reagent for certain water spells, were some bold young mage so minded to test it? Return to the top

Territory. The Lob is exclusively a salt-water denizen. He prefers rocky bottoms with plenty of crannies to hide in, and to seek out his food (see Diet, below). Fisherfolk say that during the warmer weather they hug the coastline, but during the winters one must seek them farther out, as they 'change houses' to avoid the turbulence of the winter storms! This yearly roving aside, they have a broad tolerance to variations in the temperature of the water - although they seem to prefer water between 4-6 periks.

In Sarvonia, they can be found as far north as the Isles of Ram and the coasts of the Sea of Tears, but also in the south around Herrings Bay and level with Bardavos. The northern varieties are larger and heavier-shelled, thus more prized for their metal than their meat. Southern ones are said to be sweeter and the meat more heavily veined - also a valued trait.

They are found all through the Isles of Run'or, where their shells bulge outwards into tiny blunt spikes near every joint. Though not sharp nor venomed, it still makes them more difficult to catch, and the lobcopper must be melted down to use as there are few flat surfaces existing naturally. The meat of these 'Spiked Cobsters' is quite flavourful, softer but with slightly more 'sea tang' than the Sarvonian kind.

All along the eastern coast of Nybelmar, wherever the sea floor is suitable, can be found the Nybelmarnian Emperor Lob, or Nybelob. This giant of its kind averages a ped when mature, and sailors tell tales of ones bigger than a man - perhaps two to two and a half are possible, but not verified! The shell is less dramatically-patterned than our own, and often encrusted with other small organisms, such as seaweeds, shipworms, barnacles, limpetshells, and alga. However, once cleaned and melted down, it can yield as much as four or five ods of usable metal. As to the taste... we can only say that even Baveras herself would not spurn a meal of Nybelob. The flesh is almost as firm as beefsteak, richly sweet and savoury, and can be cut and served in a great variety of ways which the sparser meat of its smaller cousins cannot support. Drizzled with aise, soaked in milchcream, or even roasted like lamb cutlets, the Emperor Lob is fit for emperors to dine upon.
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Habitat/Behaviour. Depending on the species, you will find more details in the Territory section. Mating and eating are common to all varieties, so see the appropriate sections there.
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Diet. The Lopstere feeds on a number of items: the greenish, slimy plants known as 'alga' that cover the rocks of its preferred habitat, the various small sea creatures (trysters, mussels, clams, small spiddles, and so on) around it, and the sand of the sea floor. Possibly this last is how the beast acquires, by some strange alchemy, the copper of its marvelous shell, but our inspection of its interior revealed no alembics or ovens, no furnaces or athanors, pelycans or phials, so its secret is as safe as it would be with the Black Gnomes. The excretion is a dark greenish-coloured sludge which emerges from the aperture at the base of the tail and disperses on the sea floor like other fishes' waste. It stains Lobfishers' boats and traps a vivid blue-green, so perchance there is a possible 'fast' dye to be found there, be one so brave.
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Mating. The reproductive process may happen any time throughout the year, when the sea is neither too hot nor too cold. It is unclear how many times in a year a single Lob mates or reproduces; in any full net's worth of Lopsters (ranging from thirty to fifty, depending on size and locale) there will generally be an even mix of male and female, and of the females perhaps one-third will be 'eggmassed' (see below). We have no information on how often the male mates, or with how many females - it seems to be a rather random process, as the reproduction of sea creatures often is.

The female Lob emits a glutinous mass of small (pease-sized) aqua-hued 'eggs', which remain clinging to the fringes and spikes at the base of her belly, between her two rear-most legs. She then attempts to surround herself with other Lopsters, preferably male, and turns herself upon her back, with her claws akimbo and eggs prominently displayed. The males in the group swim leisurely around and above her, releasing a cloud of nearly-invisible 'seeds' which drift down upon the she-lob, while the other females appear to 'keep watch', protecting the vulnerable eggmassed female. After fertilization occurs - about fifteen wax-drips of a typical timecandle - the female rights herself with much testy claw-clicking and jerking of her body, and the others quickly scatter.

The fecund Lob then finds a 'safe' crevice on the seafloor and deposits her eggmass, wiggling her bellyfringes and scraping her posterior against convenient rock edges until the eggs are free. She then uses her rear legs to kick drifts of sand up over the mass, concealing it more or less effectively - and her responsibility to her offspring is done.

The eggs, contained in their protective and nurturing jellyish substance, slowly grow to the size of a child's aggry marble or the end of a man's thumb. At full maturity one can see the tiny loblets, looking like their cousin crawfish but miniaturized to impossible delicacy. Their covering has slowly become absorbed into their bodies till only a thin film holds the metallic little creatures together. The most energetic of the loblets begins to move independently, striking out with its tiny claws, and conveys that energy to its siblings, until they slash through the film and break free.

Still covered with the last tatters of this 'caul', the shining copper babies scatter, seeking food, hiding in seaweeds, and escaping predators however they may until they too reach maturity and begin the process all over again. Many, of course, bright in their new coats, attract too much attention and are devoured, but enough survive each hatching to carry on the race of Lopsters.
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Usages. The Lopster is most commonly caught for the table. Its meat is found formed inside the shape of the armour, usually in long white 'strands' or 'loins', dappled with bluish veining like fine threadwork. It has a faintly sweet taste with an overtone of the sea and is very tender and succulent. To prepare, the Lop is usually dropped into boiling water until the shell begins to shine coppery through the turkoise crusting, or five waxdrips of a timecandle. It is then taken out, cooled, and the armour cracked through with a meat hammer or special 'lobhatchet'. The cooked meat can be prepared in a number of ways, similar to spiddle or white fish.

The shell can be cut with jeweler's saws and filed into various shapes. It can be gently formed by heating it and tapping with small smithy hammers. Buttons, brooches, cloak clasps, hair pins, and many more items are easily created from this 'lobcopper', as it is commonly known. Artisans who work carefully enough leave the natural patina and dappling on the shell, which is thought highly of among noble fashionistas... There is enough metal content that it can even be melted and 'recast' like real metal, though the unique patterning of the original shell surface is then lost.

The shell is also used as a decorative motif in the temples of Baveras, laid vertically into walls like irregular tiles, where their shine and texture create a dramatic facing. The shells can be easily hammered into deeper bowl shapes, which have many uses around the temple. Baveran priestesses often wear circlets or tiaras of lobcopper, inlaid with tryster-shell and/or small pearls.

Cobsters have been found with very distinctive markings, sometimes resembling letters in various scripts, or even simple pictures, as one might see a face or animal in the movement of the clouds. Such animals are usually taken immediately to a Baveran temple as an offering, or sold to those who wish to gain favour with the Goddess of the Sea, and kept alive as long as possible.

Dwarves rarely get their hands on this 'metal', and are (perhaps because of this, or because of its association with the feared sea) contemptuous of it, calling it 'tainted ore' not worth processing, 'stinkcopper', and other less flattering names.

Favourite receipts or ways of serving:

Myth/Lore. It is told, along the coasts of the Mithrals, and down around the southern shores as far as Strata, that Baveras begged a toy to amuse her one cold winter, so Urtengor took his jeweler's hammer and some copper and crafted a little 'clockwork animule' which would creep across the shore. The two found enough delight in its ungainly clattering to give it life and set it in the sea.

Fisherfolk believe that the first lob dragged up in the nets must be killed on the spot, with incongruous praise and flattery, and its shell returned to the sea with instructions to fetch more of his kind to see how well they will be treated. A typical old paean or 'invocation' of this sort may run like this: "Oh love'd Lob, look ye, we will hail ye as king for the beauty of your shell and your wisdom. Come and be kings among us, for we will give ye all that is fat and tasty, and you shall be ornamented and made songs to. Do ye go back down now, and bring ye your friends, that they too may be praised, that we may give them as they deserve. Bring as many as wish to come for we have room for them all! " Nowadays this has been greatly abbreviated to a quick mutter almost devoid of meaning, such as the Avennorians use: "Love-Lob, kunbe king, bootio yer shellan eggs, bringyer frens, bringyer frens..." - but the first lob is still slain immediately and returned to the sea, no matter how scarce or plentiful the catch expected.

Sayings: "As slow as a lob on land", "Cross as two Cobsters in springtime" "Lopstere-lover" (for a person behaving in a manner perceived above their class, meaning stuck-up, hoity-toity).
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Receipt. Aise (Aise Salad Cream, Aissauce, Myonn’s Aise) - from the Kitchens of Lorehold, by Head Cook Hubert Greengrove:

This Delicius creamy Dressing or Sause may be served Cold with Salat of all Sorts. It may Not be made Goodly on Humid days for then it Refuses to Combine. Tis sayed that the Sause was first Served to Please A young Duchess of the House of da Aise whose Tastes was Somewhat Finicky and so twas Named after Her. If you Follow Not the Direktions Laid down here with Exaktitude do not blame Me if the Sause will not Set.

You will Need:

2 Taenish Eyren, fresh-laid
2 to 3 tots of Sunseed oil
1 ladle of Vinagre or Kitraure Juice
Seasalt to taste

Break the Eyren into a Bowl and separate the Whites from the Yelks. You may set Aside the Whites or Throw them away, as you need Only the Yelks. Beat the Yelks till they be a lighter Gold and of a Gluey feel. Now take up the Oil and add it Drop by Drop, no faster. It must be Beaten Well in a Drop at a time or you will Have a Mess of Oily Potage and not Aise at all. Continue to Beat by hand till the Oil is all Inkorporayted. Now you may Add the Kitraure Juice, again a Drop at a time. The Aise should be Smooth as Silken cloth and Creamy. If you have not Patiense you Cannot make Aise.

Keep cool and Serve at Once for it does not Hold Over well. Add a Bit of scraped Weeproot, Kraggi Oil, grinded Pepper, Garlick, or the like to Flavour the Aise more strongly. Tis good with Boiled Eyren, with Lopster or indeed any White fish, with any Salats or cold Greens, and even with Apples.
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 Date of last edit 3rd Sleeping Dreameress 1668 a.S.

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