The Foilfish, also known as the "Red Herring", is a remarkable, yet small fish of the seas north of Nybelmar. Reknown for its strange illusionary abilities as well as its wonderful taste, this common fish often living in shoals of tens of thousands of individuals can be found in most fishing villages or cities in the area.
Appearance. The Foilfish is a small, sleek fish of about two span long, with a very fine scaling. They completely lack pectoral fins, and have only a faint, black dorsal fin that contains no spines, contrary to many other fish. Appearing reddish at first sight, they are in fact rather silvery-looking, the red being the result of an effect much like the fantastic colours inside a tryster shell. The thin mouth is set with dozens of tiny sharp teeth, however one needs not to fear being bitten, as their jaws are not strong enough to cause significant harm. The gills are bright red on the inside, but this is only visible after the fish is caught, or, as merfolk contacts report, during the mating season as the males open their gillflaps as wide as possible to threaten any rival that tries to fertilise the eggs of his mate.
The only, albeit rather impressive ability that has even given the fish its
name, is their habit of projecting their image in a place they are, in fact,
not. Capable of turning nigh-invisible, the Foilfish then appears out of nowhere
up to fifteen span from its
actual location. The illusion copies every movement the real fish makes, but
lasts only a couple of moments before wearing out. If need be, the Foilfish can
repeat this trick after only a few
blinks, creating more and more confusion amongst a would-be predator as
whole shoals of these fish blink in and out of existence.
Territory. Foilfish are found all along the northern coastline of Nybelmar, but are especially common around the Northern Bay region, and the Essalui Thareliath. Here, the shoals can consist of more than a million fish at a time, while in most other regions one or two thousand appears to be the limit. They are exceedingly rare on the west coast of the continent, most likely due to several species of predators not present in the north keeping the population low, and only occasionally seem on the east coast as the rocky beaches and seabed so common there does not provide room for spawning and burying their eggs.
Habitat/Behaviour. The foilfish prefers the sandy seabeds and gradually sloping seafloor of northern Nybelmar. Finding safety in numbers, the Foilfish does little attempt to hide itself from anything. Moving as one, the shoals spend most of the day looking for feeding grounds. Slightly more active by night than by day, catching Foilfish is best done around sunrise, as the fish are then often closest to the surface. During the wintery mating season, Foilfish spend most of their time at the seafloor, making it exceedingly hard to catch, but all during summer, their sheer numbers makes foilfishing a profitable business.
Diet. It is said that these fish do not eat at all, as the coastal folk who cut them up on a daily basis have never discovered smaller fishes' bones, seacreatures' shells, half-digested seaweed, or any other common article of diet which can be found in a fish's gut. The most that they find is a sort of silvery sludge, which they claim variously is 'solidified moonlight', 'mermaid's hair lotion', or 'whalesludge'. What they mean by any of these phrases is only conjecture.
Mating. The Foilfish mate in the middle of winter, as the female lays her three-hundred or so eggs in a small pit in the seafloor. Then, the male follows to fertilise and bury the eggs. Whole shoals do this at the same time, creating an underwater feast for all those shellfish and other predators that are attracted to the fresh eggs. In about two months, the surviving fish hatch all at the same time and form a fresh, new shoal to roam the seas.
Usages. The sole usage of Foilfish is culinary. It can be eaten baked, cooked, grilled, dried, salted, or even raw, and receipts are as common as, well, Foilfish. Almost every village, hamlet or family has its own ways of preparing and spicing this particular fish, which is a staple food in much of the regions it is found in. It is advisable however to carefully check for any remains of the scales before consuming any kind of Foilfish. Not only can a scale stuck in the throat lead to incurable coughing and irritation for days, but also some severe agitation of the lower intestines is a common result of ingesting Foilfish scales.
Myth/Lore. The saying "To see a Red Herring", popular among the fishermen of the Northern Bay, means that someone is seeing things that are not really there. It would be the author's guess that it is most commonly used in a version of "Last night I drank so much, I was seeing Red Herring!", considering the origins of this saying.
"Common as Foilfish" is another saying related to these animals found primarily in the city-states that govern the southern beaches of the Northern Bay, and of course refers to the vast number of these fish in a shoal.
Occasionally, a Glass Herring may be found in a fisherman's nets. This odd Foilfish is stuck in its illusion-using state, and can only be felt, not seen. Accompanied by its ghostly twin brother image, these fish are considered a bad omen by fishermen, and are carefully released back into the sea as soon as someone manages to find the actual fish. Which might take a while.