THE NIRAKAA FISH ("LIGHTNING FISH")

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

The Nirakaa (literally "lightning" in the Tarshiinite tongue) is a remarkable fish which inhabits the oceans of Nybelmar’s Western Bay. Travelling in schools of hundreds and glowing a soft, inviting blue, the Nirakaa Fish, which is rarely larger than a human thumb, is perhaps the most unlikely predator in all the western seas. Utilising a remarkable ability that allows them to emit a shocking pulse with an effect reminsicent of lightning (though on much smaller scale), the groups of Nirakaa wait to be consumed by would-be predators, before knocking them unconscious and devouring the stunned creature from the inside out.

Appearance. With the naked-eye the Nirakaa would appear simply to be a flake of iridescent blue that darted through the water. However, under close inspection with nearseers the fish can be viewed in much greater detail. The fish itself resembles a streamlined arrowhead in shape, elongated but completely smooth as if made of delicate glass. Though rarely larger than a human thumb, Nirakaa vary in length from three to ten nailsbreadths. While scholars have somewhat logically suggested that the fish grows with age, Nirakaa kept in captivity have shown that the some specimens grew by less than a nailsbreath in their entire lifetime and the sheer number of fish that compose their naturally-occurring schools make it impossible to determine growth rates in the wild.

For the most part the Nirakaa appears completely symmetrical. With two translucent fins adorning each side of its body, the creature is enabled to propel itself at considerable speed for its size, while its cold metallic eyes give it an almost otherworldly appearance, each of the shimmering copper beads resting on either side of its head. The fish is decorated by thousands of tiny scales, varying slightly in pigment but never deviating from the tranquil, glowing blue. Each of the scales is both hard and flexible with a texture reminiscent of well-kept fingernails. As some form of natural phenomenon, the scales of the Nirakaa form infinitesimal geometric patterns ranging from swirling spirals to rigid vertical stripes, scholars theorising that each arrangement of scales is as unique to each fish as the finger print is to each human. Such is the intricacy of these patterns that the philosophers and artists of the Scepteres of Tarshiin who in the 11th century a.S. emphasised the didactic worth of geometric symmetry were known as ‘Nirakites’ in reference to the fish.

Though there is no definitive answer as to how it is achieved, the Nirakaa manages to flush itself with a brilliant blue pigment which causes the scales of the fish to glow. Though some have theorised it is a colourful component of their diet, the fact that captive Nirakaa are fed mainly on crabs and do not lose this astonishing hue somewhat refutes this idea. Instead, many believe that the glow is caused by a substance within the blood of the fish, an idea validated by the fact that the glow ceases some time after the creature’s death. However what this ‘substance’ is remains a mystery.

Furthermore, the Nirakaa also has an uncountable mass of sharp teeth in its tiny mouth, educated estimates suggesting that they have anywhere two and three hundred. A polished, rock-like grey in colour, the teeth of a Nirakaa are seemingly indestructible- resistant to heat, powerful aceeds and the application of brute force. Due to their minute size but retained roughness, the Tarshiinites have taken to mixing Nirakaa teeth into therapeutic creams as a sediment to lightly exfoliate the skin.
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Special Abilities. The Nirakaa is an effective and novel hunter. Usually travelling in groups of many hundreds, schools of Nirakaa utilise their features to attract, entrap and devour their prey. The schools of Nirakaa, which glow a powerful yet inviting blue, use their colour to draw their prey towards them with an almost hypnotic effect known as the ‘Nirakaa’s Dance’ – a co-ordinated pattern of synchronised swimming that seems to mesmerise any creature into finding the school of fish a delicious prospect:

An account of a Tugaru Diver cited in ‘Studies of Tarshiinite Marine Life: Speartongue, Riikrata and other Aquatic Predators’:

As the dim, orange light of the glowcoral I was using to navigate the dark recesses of the reef began to reveal little other than black water around me I caught a glint of shining blue in the corner of my eye. Looking to it, I saw it was an enormous school of Nirakaa, so small were its parts in comparison that the congregation itself appeared as one entity. My eyes began fixed on the patterns the fish were forming, spiralling towards me and then dissipating like escaping smoke, only to reform in a medley of smooth spheres and extravagant flourishes of shape that resembled splatters of ink. Soon my whole body seemed to twinge with hunger and my mouth began to salivate underneath my heavy Tugaru.

As a stroke of luck my leg began to burn, the slow acting paste I had rubbed into my thigh telling me that soon my Tugaru would be no longer breathable and that it was time to resurface. As the heat enveloped my leg I managed to wrestle myself from the tantalising trance of the Nirakaa and regain my concentration, but had my head not been encased in glass and sponge I doubt I could have controlled the voracious hunger they instilled in me.

It may seem odd for a hunter to try and invite its prey to eat it, though this exactly where the ingenuity lies. Unlike the Riikrata, with its violent red and black stripes and enormous, gaping jaws, there is nothing aggressive about the Nirakaa, its soft blue colouration making it seem even more defenceless. After making their prey overflow with hunger the fish simply waits for the creature to consume the entire school. Once eaten, each Nirakaa releases an amazing pulse that seems like a wave of lightning that encapsulates the fish. Though the spark produced by an individual Nirakaa is usually only enough to sting a large fish (or prying human hand), the combination of all the fish in the school creates a shock which is enough to leave almost any creature unconscious, or in some cases dead. Once their internal assault is concluded the creatures begin to eat their prey from the inside out, using their tiny teeth to scrape every last morsel of flesh off of the poor target’s skeleton, leaving nothing behind but a collection of bones floating eerily through the water.

It has long befuddled scholars of the Western Bay as to how the combined shocks of the Nirakaa schools stun or kill a much larger creature while leaving each individual fish unscathed. Though there is no concrete explanation, previous researchers have asserted that some internal organ or fluid that the fish possesses in some way "cancels out" the effects of the pulse, making them effectively "shock-proof". Though there is little certainty as to what this internal equalising structure is, some have hypothesised that it is in fact the glowing pigment which characterises the Nirakaa that gives each fish an immunity to the other's shocks. This notion was taken to extremes by Ukapii Risikna, an eccentric Tarshiinite naval captain, who ordered that his ship be completely covered wiith a paint made of crushed Nirakaa, believing this would safeguard it from being struck by lightning during storms. It will come as no surprise to hear that Captain Risikna was discharged from the navy only a few years later, deemed unfit for service due to "inappropriate levels of madness".

Aside from their hunting prowess, the Nirakaa are also very agile in the water. Due to their speed, schools of Nirakaa can rarely been still aside from when they are attempting to enchant their prey. Though the fish have little worry for predators, they are capable of fleeing at enormous speeds, much to the displeasure of the Tugaru divers tasked with catching them.
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Territory. The Nirakaa seems exclusive to the waters and reefs of Nybelmar’s Western Bay, sharing the waters of the Tarshiinites and the esoteric Numentan. Unlike other fish they do not seem to migrate as their sources of food and mating habits do not require it, and as such while Nirakaa do not entirely fill the waters of the Western Bay, their populations remain a noticeable constant.
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Habitat/Behaviour. For the most part, the Nirakaa can only be seen to be doing one thing: swimming. Schools of Nirakaa, which average to encompass hundreds if not thousands of the tiny fish, seem to spend all their time swimming in aimless patterns, either looking for other schools to mate with or prey to hunt. As the only permanent dwelling of any Nirakaa is the labyrinthine nursery that their parents tunnel into coral, the fish seems to spend its whole life seeking out activity. Such a trait can also be seen to be separate of the groups of Nirakaa, as individual fish kept captive are still eager to swim in circles around their tanks with no prospect of reward.

The fish themselves tend to be somewhat cautious, often using their shocking ability to ward off any creature they fear is getting too close. Though wary of strangers, the Nirakaa seems to be completely pacifistic in its dealings with others of its own kind, even remaining pleasant during the frenzies of mating.

Despite their speed and the fact they are eager to be swallowed, Nirakaa are not completely bereft of predators. While they are often too small to chew, they are preyed upon by creatures such as Yuranno 'Guzzling' Fish, whose potent stomach aceed can completely dissolve a school of Nirakaa before they can coordinate their own internal assault on the fish. Another notable predator of the Nirakaa is the Coralmaw Mollusc, a creature whose exterior resembles coral of the Tarshiinite reefs. When the schools of pregnant Nirakaa begin to craft their nurseries (see Mating), those who mistake the Coralmaw for normal coral are engulfed in the creature's own sedative ink, the Coralmaw then sucking the whole school into its fleshy mouth and digesting them slowly before they even wake up.
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Diet. The diet of the Nirakaa is far less about what they eat and more about what attempts to eat them. Due to their small size it is assumed Nirakaa do not require much sustenance to survive, and what they choose to eat is utterly dependent on what their mesmerising dance entraps. Though the fish is generally only preyed upon by fish large enough to devour a whole school, their diet can vary enormously from the glass shark to small crustaceans and everything in between.
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Mating. Unlike other creatures, there seems to be no specific mating season for the Nirakaa, the fish seizing every opportunity it gets. Whenever two schools of Nirakaa meet they immediately swarm around each other. In a flurry of movement the male Nirakaa impregnate the female Nirakaa orally in a motion that takes only a couple of blinks to complete. However the process is lengthened by the fact that all the Nirakaa from one school mate with all the Nirakaa from the other before the two depart. As a result scholars have come to the conclusion that, based on their behaviour when they meet, schools of Nirakaa must either be completely male or completely female. However, more outlandish thinkers have suggested that there is in fact no gender at all and that the Nirakaa are ethryalic, asserting that when two groups of Nirakaa meet one nominates themselves to be impregnated and the others are nominated to fertilise. However, it is difficult to see how in the frenzies that ensue during reproduction such decisions could be made.

After mating the ‘female’ (or at least ‘pregnant’) school begin to build a nursery in the reefs to lay their eggs. Using their rows of strong teeth they tunnel into the coral and spit their eggs into the recesses and leave their unborn young forever, moving onwards to either hunt or mate again. After around three weeks of development the coral nursery behinds to overflow with fully grown Nirakaa who then form their own school and begin their own frenzied escapades under the sea.
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Usages. The primary use for the Nirakka is its teeth. Due to their ability to retain their strength and shape when mixed with most known chymicals, the minute teeth of the fish are added to a medley of skin creams and lotions to provide an exfoliating element. Though the process of removing the miniscule teeth from the tiny fish is a laborious one, the rejuvenating effect that the products have makes the cosmetics particularly prized, creating a small industry that is understandably popular when the Tarshiinite penchant from hygiene and grooming is considered.

As well as this, the eyes of the Nirakka contain a viscous fluid resembling liquid copper. When mixed with the fruit of the chuunara tree, the fluid can create a potent sedative and analgesic. Though it enjoyed a short-lived period where it was used recreationally, the product, known as "Tarshiin Slumber" outside out the Scepteres, is often used in small quantities to soothe the agonies of teething infants.
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Myth/Lore. The Nirakaa, due to its unassuming but dangerous nature, is the root of many Tarshiinite phrases. One of the most common is "to have been led by a Nirakaa’s dance", referring to someone who is forced into action by the lure of some enchantment, more often than not referring to young men who are haunted by foolish romantic gestures they have offered attractive women.

Though not a particularly superstitious people, the Tarshiinites do maintain that to see a Nirakaa outside of the waters of the Western Bay is a bad omen, a notion validated particularly by the tragedy that befell the Monk Agaruu Yahana, who drowned in the research aquariums at the Enkyklopadie’s facility in Maghin.
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 Date of last edit 17th Burning Heavens 1670 a.S.

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