The Oolboïéabey, more commonly known among non-merfolk as the "Oloy" (both singular and plural), is a rather intelligent and elusive aquatic mammal of the Drifting Woods area in north-western Nybelmar. Despite being used as pets by the local merfolk, and valued for their waterproof pelts by the humans, they manage to thrive in the dark waters of the woods, and can be found, with a lot of luck almost everywhere underneath the forest.

The Oloy

View picture in full size Image description. The elusive Oloy seen in a very rare moment when it leaves its natural environment, the water, in order to feast on a caught fish. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Appearance. The wild Oloy is seldom seen. Its speed and camouflaging coat make it hard to spot, and its nocturnal hunting habits make it nigh impossible to find them when they do not want to be found. The creature resembles both cats and mustelids in its behaviour and overall build, but it is commonly classified as a mustelid, mainly due to its agility, which seems to surpass that of cats.

It is about the same size as a large house-cat, with females being at least half a span larger than the average male, but with a shorter tail that measures about a span, is flattened, and about two to three nailsbreadths wide at the base. It is completely covered with a soft, silky fur, consisting of two distinct layers. One of soft, short, and fluffy hairs, that serve to keep the Oloy warm in the cool waters, and one of longer, thicker hairs that form a waterproof outer layer, allowing it to glide through the water more smoothly, and keep the softer fur underneath dry. Often, small bubbles are caught between the hairs as the Oloy jumps out of the water, or basks on the surface, giving the creature a slightly silvery sheen underwater. The outer fur is usually of a adlemirene or eophran brown colour, where the inner fur is much lighter, almost completely white.

The Oloy’s head is small and oval, tapering sharply into a maw filled with needle-like teeth. It has large, tear-shaped eyes, which only distinguish light and dark, leaving the Oloy completely colourblind as some experiments have shown. This, combined with its already poor sight, causes the Oloy to rely on its superb hearing and smell instead.

The Oloy has no distinct neck, but fairly broad shoulders, sloping backward strongly, and leading into the strongly developed front paws. These are connected to the shoulders by an unusual type of joint, allowing for movement in all directions. Its front legs are quite long, measuring at least two span. The front paws then are wide, approximately six nailsbreadths, and set with six toes, each concealing a sharp retractable claw.

The body is rotund, making the shoulders more obviously pointing outward a bit, and all in all about four to four-and-a-half span long before ending in two short hind legs, only about a span long. The hind paws are as broad as the front paws, but are fully webbed, and its claws can, unlike the front ones, not be retracted, although they are shorter, and less sharp.
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Special Abilities. The key features of the Oloy are its exceptional sense of smell and hearing, which enable it to find food without having to see it first, and escape any incoming danger. Merfolk claims the Oloy are capable of hearing the whispers of water flowing through a net, and curse them for it, for the creatures are known to raid the fish from unguarded nets, often damaging the net in the process.

Another noticeable ability is their amazing skill in diving. Often an Oloy can remain submerged for nearly an hour, although they prefer to breathe every few minutes or more. Their lungs can apparently contain much more air than the size of this creature would suggest, and most likely share some features with those of the dolpholk of the Caelerethian seas.

Third and last, its special bone structure may be listed here. For some reason, the bones of the Oloy are, with only a few exceptions, soft and flexible. Hard bones might still be found in the jaws, vertebrae, and several skull bones, but the vast majority of an Oloy body is made to be twisted to fit into small places, or squeezed through tiny openings, something that certainly plays a part in its success in the Drifting Woods, where there are small cavities and tunnels to be found everywhere in the submerged territories this creature calls home.
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Territory. Oloy are almost exclusively found in the Drifting Woods and its surrounding area
in north-western Nybelmar. Occasionally one might swim upstream onto the Methèrinin River or find its way to the Essalui Tharelliath and settle there, but this has not led to any noticeable populations being formed outside of the Drifting Woods, most likely due to the lack of shelter compared to inside the forest.

Also, Oloy can sometimes be found in the presence of traveling merfolk around the northern Nybelmarian coastline. These are always more or less tamed individuals, and are fed and protected by their owners.
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Habitat/Behaviour. Oloy are playful, cheery creatures, which is best visible in their young years, when they live with their mother, and later in a group of up to six or seven other adolescent Oloy. If one would happen upon such a group by day, it is likely that they would be playing chase, jumping and swirling through the water, and cuddling amongst each other, instead of sunbathing and lazily patrolling their territory as the adults do.

This rather distinct shift in atitude is the result of reaching sexual maturity, at three years of age, and as a result the young adult leaves his playmates and wanders away, trying to find a territory to call its own. It is now fully grown, and often will such a youngster be able to steal a portion of an older Oloys territory, or even take over his area completely.

An interesting fact is that the adults, although fiercely territorial towards other adults outside the mating season, completely ignore the youngsters’ presence, who are free to wander safely from one territory to another. It is this pleasant nature that makes the Oloy suitable as merfolk pets. As they regard their Oloy as humans would see their cat; playful, independent, completely impossible to control, and most importantly, completely different from their wild relatives, who are, after all, thieving, obnoxious pests.

Oloys rarely sleep. Often, they spend the light hours floating at the surface, resting and grooming their pelts, and only at nightfall, as many fish start leaving their daily hideouts venture off to hunt and patrol their territories. Oloys who are fortunate enough to have a Moss Mound, or part of it, in their territory, can be seen riding the hot currents of water expelled by the mounds, both day and night, as these are not only pleasant to swim in, but also attract many smaller creatures who then end up as the Oloys next meal.

The Oloy, being completely adapted to their watery environment, do not leave the water at all, except for a few hours to give birth, and to die. When an Oloy reaches the end of its life, usually around thirteen to fourteen years of age, it will travel to a large cavity , usually a pocket of air trapped underneath a tangleroot or waterfruit tree, and climb ashore to die within a few days. These cavities are carefully selected. No entrances are available from above, and the underwater entrance usually just barely allows the Oloy to enter, locking out all other creatures of their size. It may then not come as a surprise that as the generations pass, these caves, or ‘Oloy Graveyards’ become full of bones and other remains of the dead Oloy, who often travel a long way to reach such a cave.
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Diet. The Oloy lives as any true scavenger, on a great variety of things. Its menu consists, among other things, of fish, shellfish, mollusks, large insects, various invertebrate creatures, fishermen's bait, eggs (of all kind of creatures, as long as they are laid in the water), smaller aquatic mammals, and just about anything else it might find, or be able to steal from the merfolk.
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Mating. At about three years of age, both sexes reach sexual maturity, and leave their adolescent group in order to settle in their own territory. Females may now take part in the mating process and conceive, males will often be forced to wait a few more years in order to defeat their competitors.

During the mating season, which starts in the eighth month, and lasts two to three weeks, depending on the water temperatures mostly, several males from neighbouring territories will gather around a female. She then tries to shake them off over the next few days, often traveling many strals until only one male remains, at which time they mate. The actual mating occurs several times over the next week, after which the female turns on the male and forces it to leave.

After a gestation period of eight months, the cubs, usually two or three per litter, are born in a small burrow or natural cavity. Within a few hours after birth, they are able to leave their birthground, and follow their mother into the water as she leaves to find food.
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Usages. Oloy are mostly used by the merfolk of the Drifting Woods. They serve as pets, often remaining much more playful when raised with the mer than they would in the wild. (It is not unusual to see an elderly Oloy happily play with the mer children, frolicking as it would do in a juvenile group.) These Oloy are nowadays rarely caught from the wild, as the ‘domesticated’ individuals will mate and produce offspring themselves, although less often as their wild counterparts. It is fairly certain however that the first of these tamed Oloy were cubs from mothers who died by accident, or by being hunted, as the mer occasionally catch these animals for their pelt, which is greatly appreciated by the humans, and may often be traded for a good price at their villages.

Hunting Oloy however, is not as easy as one would think. They are smart, very fast, and can sense a net or spear moving through the water, making the use of baited traps the only reliable way to catch them. Even then, they are often able to squeeze through a hole, or destroy part of the trap in order to escape, and the hunters are left with the dilemma of having to check the trap often, but risking chasing their prey away each time they do so.
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Myth/Lore. The Oloy Graveyards are sometimes discovered by humans when removing the tree above, and it is believed by several scolars that such a discovery of the stacks of bones ‘trapped’ underneath the roots has inspired the local horror story about the “Tree Ghasts”, evil spirits who appear as trees, and who stalk the living through the woods at night in order to devour them.
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 Date of last edit 22nd Passing Clouds 1666 a.S.

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