The Mithanjor is a small, prolific silver fish found in ponds and lakes throughout Southern Sarvonia. It is most commonly found in the mountainous cavern pools of Een Puvtyr, supplying the Thrumgolz dwarven clan with food, but also inhabits the Aerelian Lakes, the Ancythrian Sea, and the Silvermarshes. Its name comes from the Thergerim Taal, or dwarven tongue, "mith" (mith) being "metal" or "metallic", and "anjor" (anjor) meaning simply "fish".
Though the Mithanjor vary in length, they average one to two handspans outside
Een Puvtyr,. However, within the mineral-laden, algae-rich pools of this
underground city, these little fish thrive, and can grow to be a fore or more.
Dwarves boast that a 2-fore Mithanjor has been caught here! Even granting that
the dwarven fore is somewhat shorter than the
human equivalent, that would be an
exceptional size for this minnow-fish to attain.
The Mithanjor is silver in color, usually with darker scales on the sides of its body and lighter scales on the top and bottom. It has one dorsal fin in the middle of its back and two ventral fins: one in the center of its belly and another slightly set back towards the tail of the fish. It also has small side fins to push it through the water. These fins are far more animated than the inert dorsal and ventral ones. Most have eyes usually ranging from silver to yellow-silver in color, although a few in the deepest underground pools are completely blind. The Mithanjor’s snout is short and rounded, and it has a semi-circle of tiny barbed teeth set in cartilaginous lips, which it uses to tear the algae from the rocks and stones in its habitat.
These small fish are very adaptable and there are a variety of subspecies
within the Mithanjor. Some are able to live in low-light conditions and have
even mutated to survive in complete darkness, while others, unusually, have
adapted to salt water as well as freshwater.
Territory. The Mithanjor live in freshwater lakes throughout Southern Sarvonia, primarily in the pools of Een Puvtyr. The pools, usually shallow and small enough that the algae they feed on is easy to find, seem to be the optimum habitat for these fish and because of it, they are often seen healthier and quite a bit larger in Een Puvtyr, than any other place in Santharia. They are also found in the Aerelian Lakes near the city of Salsair, as well as in the Ancythrian Sea as a meal for the vicious Ancythrian Shark. Although they can become salt-tolerant, they do not thrive in deep water, so it is rare to find them in coastal regions. Ephirn's Lake has a number of the littlest species, usually only a finger’s length, while the Silvermarshes in Nyermersys are probably the best location outside of Een Puvtyr for the Mithanjor to flourish.
There are a few places where man-made lakes have been made for these fish as fish-farms where they are bred as bait, but they do not live healthily in these environments as they lack many of the natural processes that take place in their former habitats. For this reason, many usually die within the year.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Mithanjor flourish in the caverns of Een Puvtyr. Some believe it to be the darkness of the pools while others believe it is the trace minerals that seep into the underground water. Most agree, however, that the lack of predators, save the dwarves that cultivate these delicious silver fish, are what have caused it to become so successful in these pools.
The Mithanjor tends to travel in scuals of 10 to 40 in Een Puvtyr, depending on the size of the individual fish as well as the size of the pool they reside in. Why they do this is still unknown, but sage researchers think it is simply instinct that causes this behavior. In the Aerelian Lakes and especially in the Ancythrian Sea, these little minnows travel in scuals of close to 1,000, primarily for defense against predators. Inability to pinpoint a single fish in a large scual allows them more protection against the sharks and other creatures out to feast upon them.
Diet. The Mithanjor primarily feed on the algae growing on the rocks and the sea floor of their environment. The algae grow in great quantities on the walls of the pools in Een Puvtyr. These silver fish have sometimes been known to eat bugs and insects that fall on the surface of the pools and lakes in which they live. Feylien larvae, for example, are fair game in swampy areas. They will also commonly eat bread if it is given to them, and can be easily "tamed" by this method. In particular the rockbread made by the Thrumgolz clan, with beer to help it rise, is ravenously eaten up by these little fish. It is said that the dwarven children of Een Puvtyr will cluster around the pools to handfeed their Mithanjor, and at such times the water’s surface becomes a shimmering mass of liquid, bubbling silver as the fish greedily rise for their food.
Mating. In spring or early summer, hundreds of fish will swarm through the pools in Een Puvtyr or swarm to a certain location in the lake or sea that they live in to mate. The mating grounds they collect at tend to be shallow or near the shore. For many non-dwarves it is an occasion to see these beautiful fish closely. There are so many some years that the pools seem to turn from plain water into molten mithril. The mating process itself is quick. They touch at the base of the other fishes' tail to deliver the milt from the male to the eggs of the female.
A female will only mate with one other male, but she usually has little or no preference as to which one. As for the males, they will mate with any available female. The strongest and the fastest will obviously get to more available females than the weak, slow one. Thus the natural cycle is maintained. The eggs, or roe, of these fish will hang in the water, often near the top, connected to air bubbles to keep them afloat on the water’s surface. The roe however, aren’t apparent for a few weeks, after which the individual spheres grow large enough to be seen by the naked eye. The roe is black in colour, with a silvery sheen to the surface. Some males may devour the roe which has been fertilized by other males, to ensure that their own kind carries on to the next generation, and also to help maintain the population.
In the third or fourth weeks, when the roe has matured but the young inside have not developed, the roe can be collected and eaten, usually as a topping to some other dish, though some prefer the roe plain. The dwarves of Een Puvtyr have made it part of their culture to harvest roe sensitively, so that the population of Mithanjor becomes neither too high nor endangered.
This season of eating Mithanjor roe doesn’t last very long, though, for after the two months following their engendering, the spheres break open and emit tiny, two-nailsbreadths hatchlings. They stay on the mating grounds, in shallow waters, before they grow large enough to swim away.
The Mithanjor is eaten in great quantities in
Een Puvtyr as a dinner dish:
sometimes as the main course and other times as small side dish depending on the
size. They can be dried and reconstituted in soups and chowders, and are a good
traveling food for dwarves going from one cavern to the next. The smallest dried
fish (hatchling size) are sometimes sprinkled over vegetable dishes or eaten as
is, for a salty snack. The roe is also a popular delicacy.
Outside of Een Puvtyr, however, where the fish don't grow so large, the Mithanjor are commonly used as bait to catch larger fish. They are caught in large nets, often in great quantities, and kept alive in man-made ponds for a few weeks. Only a few human rangers, fishermen, or fortunate dwarf-friends are familiar with the delicate taste of fresh-fried Mithanjor or the salty, rich roe. If city nobles ever discovered what they were missing, we should soon see merchants beating a path to the dwarven trade caverns!
Myth/Lore. By humans these little fish are regarded only as bait, or entertainment for children playing in the shallows, so there is little in the way of myth or story about them. A purported children’s song is given below, but its hackneyed form and sentimental qualities suggests that it was written by an amateur poet for children's consumption.
“Darling little Mithanjor,
Among the water bright,
How you flit and how you flee,
Like a streak of light.
Little scales on silver sides,
Little wav’ring fin,
Here’s my net, oh Mithanjor,
Will you swim right in?”
However, among the dwarves they are seen as a gift of Trum-Baroll (Urtengor) and their ability to live in low-light or complete darkness a unique sign of his love for his people. The Mithanjor are harvested under supervision, and their roe gathered at the appropriate times with equal care. When eating Mithanjor the dwarves never fail to say a quick line of prayer in specific thanks to Trum-Baroll, which is recorded here in both the original Thergerim Taal and in transliteration.
!TrumBarol Korim Se MithAnjor UrtUup Theh Wyr Uhn!
(Lord Trum-Barol, for Mithanjor, good food, we thank you!)
In practice, from much usage this is often rendered as "Trumbarim Smith’njr Urpthey Wirn…" (Trumbarim Smith’njr Urpthey Wirn…), quickly mumbled so that the food does not cool, but never neglected for all their haste!