Liathghorm salmon are not unlike similar fish. Adults average about one and a half ells, the largest individuals reaching about three ells. They are a hearty fish with silvery blue scales in the sea turning a pinkish hue during the spawning season. They are distinguished easily from other salmon by the eyes: adult Liathghorm salmon have eyes that glow a variety of colors, anything from white or blue to red and purple, with a wide range of brightness. A magic user can also discern a strong psychic attraction, not intelligent but merely naturally magical. The fish are found only in County Siogal's Liathghorm River and in the sea around Cruinn Bay. They are an abundant commercial fish, though the fishers of Conlow are careful not to overfish and reduce their supply; thus a meal of Liathghorm salmon is considered something of a treat if not a delicacy.
Like other salmon, the Liathghorm variety are spawned upstream, high in the Argiat Reeks near the source of the Liathghorm. The fry develop high in the coldwater streams until they are juveniles, at which point they swim downstream into the ocean. The fish spend about two years at sea, growing until maturity. Once mature, they swim back upstream to their natal waters, a harrowing journey up waterfalls and across rapids. Soon after they arrive, the females lay their eggs and the males fertilize them. The adult salmon die off in large numbers afteward, a small number surviving to swim back to the ocean and spawn again the next year.
Liathghorm salmon are a common game fish among Siogalish anglers, with the most abundant fishing immediately after the salmon spawn in the Reeks. They are popular not only for their taste, but the unique side effect that comes from the fish's natural psychic affinity. While the fry develop in the thousands of fertilized eggs in their spawn nests, they absorb a piece of knowledge from the minds of sentients around them. The high concnetration of the fish make a powerful well of magic power, so their reach is broad; the minds of those as far away as Dabh and Torwyth can be reached by the psyionic salmon. On eating the salmon, one receives the knowledge the salmon absorbed and it becomes permanently a part of their mind.
The effect of this is quite unpredictable. Usually the salmon will only absorb one piece of knowledge - a random bit of fact or gossip. The location of someone's winter coat, an affair between the brewer's wife and the horse groom, the difference between a pitchback and an overshot water wheel - mostly mundane or unuseful knowledge.
Occassionally, of course, exceptional bits of knowledge are passed on. A tale in Sudhalin has it that a reeve frustrated by a cold murder case went to drown his failure in ale and salmon. After eating the fish, he had sudden knowledge of the guilty party, who was apprehended and acquiesed at the reeve's inexplicably intimate knowledge of the crime. A Fiodin goldsmith famous for his secret alloy recipe had his career ruined by a Conlow fishwife, who gained knowledge of the process after eating a salmon stew and selling the plans to a rival.
An exceedingly rare case can occur when one dies as the salmon eggs are fertilized. It has happened where the entirety of a person's knowledge is passed on to a fish, and an unsuspecting fisher suddenly finds themselves with a lifetime's worth of skill and information. The few recorded times this has happened, it is rarely a person of note. The employment records of Orodal note a young woman who came from Dabh demanding work as a mining engineer. The foreman scoffed that a farm girl would possess any knowledge or skill worthy of such a role, but the woman took a pick, walked to a nearby quarry, and with a few strokes pinpointed a rich silver vein that had gone unnoticed. The amazed foreman asked how she knew such a thing, and the girl could only say she knew all there was to know about mining after a fine meal of Liathghorm salmon for her birthday. The foreman hired the girl, who filled a position that had been vacant since an elder engineer had died a few years prior with no worthty successor to his skill.
While such fortitous events are rare, that has done nothing to stop some from seeking secret knowledge from the Liathghorm salmon. Some foriegners arrive in Siogal seeking to eat the fish, hoping to gain the expertiece of a great sorcerer or ancient hero; after a few weeks of eating nothing but salmon, they leave with a random smattering of gossip and a secret family cake recipe but little else. It is said that one can discern the nature of the knowledge a salmon holds by examining the glow in its eyes. Of course, any dozen 'experts' will give you a dozen different answers on what a particular eye color means. They do generally agree, however, that the salmon that absorbs a person's life knowledge live an unnaturally long time. Liathghorm salmon generally die off soon after spawning as part of their natural life cycle, with a very small number swimming back downstream to return to the ocean before repeating their cycle the next year. But anglers who visit the Liathghorm at its source find a few fish that seem to stay year after year, neither eating nor spawning but only swimming about their natal waters as though waiting. These fish are otherwise no different from their brethren, but they seem to have a higher instance of bestowing greater pieces of knowledge. But these fish are much more uncommon, and seem to evade capture with purposeful skill. Some Conlow anglers are hesitant to attempt these greater game as superstition holds the spirit of dead resides in the fish and it will seek vengeance if caught.
When a character eats a Liathghorm salmon*, roll 1d100.
1-20: Random useless information (local gossip, basic familial information, random fact, etc.)
21-40: Useless skill (Sewing technique, baking recipe, etc.)
41-60: Location of a random mundane object
61-70: Specific local gossip (Actionable information, though maybe not especially helpful)
71-80: Random skill (Potentially useful - Sailors' knots, artisinal techniques, etc.)
80-90: Location of specific useful object (Hidden cache of gold, magical weapon, etc.)
91-94: Important information
95-98: Powerful skill (Magic technique, major feat, etc.)
99: Average person's life knowledge (Minor government official, tradesman, common soldier, etc.)
100: Powerful person's life knowledge (Ancient king, powerful wizard, skilled warrior, etc.)
*This is for a random, regular Liathghorm salmon. If the salmon is known to be exceedingly old (at least 5 years), roll 1d20 and use the upper end of the table.
Fishing for Information - If the PCs are seeking a particular piece of evidence, they could try their hand at catching and eating a Liathghorm salmon. Granted, they have only a very slim chance of actually getting any useful information out of it, but if they happen to be in Siogal or at an imported fish market, it's worth a try.
Lucky Catch - The party runs into a group of villagers fleeing their homes. A young boy is apparently terrorizing the village with powerful magic of unknown origin. Investigating, the PCs interrogate the boy's mother who has no explanation, only that he acted strangely after a dinner of fish stew last week. The stew was of imported Liathghorm salmon, one that apparently contained the knowledge of a very skilled wizard.
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? Responses (12)-12
I'm always fond of the mundane (utility items, common animals with minor magical traits etc.) with a twist so this is right up my alley so they say. Just a random thought is that potentially the something that came up on a 1-20 could in specific cases be as good to the PCs as something from a 61-70 when they are on a side quest.
Solid color material, love it
There are tons of excellent ways to use this in a game! Perhaps some wizard is storing thoughts in salmon, or a wealthy queen keeps these in her gardens to absorb the gossip of her court whom she suspects of plotting against her, or a seer claiming they can judge the value of a Liathghorn fish without eating it.
'Is that the Royal pond? My, those fish are lovely.'
'Those aren't fish, they're her bloody spies! Mind your tongue around them.'
So what's the range of knowledge sbsorbtion?
This is a fun idea, subtle but dramatic.
And a vote
Truly a new creature. :) 5/5
I want to give this an HOH.
This is pretty cool, and made better since I love salmon. I wonder what animals would do with these memories? Maybe a bear might have unusually good info on where to find some food or gain a skill one would never expect of a bear...
Since killer whales eat salmon too, they might be smart enough to make use of memories gained in this manner..
This is great! Love the write-up. It has that Gaelic flavor obviously which adds to the enjoyment. Love the bucolic feel to this too. Plus what axle said, subtle yet dramatic!! Can go so many different ways with these fish!
5/5 I didnt want to like this. I hate fish, hate, em, amazing sub will HoH
Solid, definitely will consider these fish for my worldbuilding concepts. Favorited.