The East is a place of strange contrasts to the West. The first settlers here marveled at the strange places and strange faces and strange beasts of the land. Though they are now, one-hundred years later, taken as a matter of course, the settlers originally marveled at the otherworldly animals known as Topal (from the F’lorine to’pau la, “ink sprayer”), also called lake squid (their most common name), lake cuttle, or loligo.
Though the oceans and seas abutting both West and East teem with sholes and swarms of squid (squid are more plentiful than fish in these oceans, and take many of their ecological niches), the West sports a very conventional lake and groundwater fish-based ecosystem, the East’s lakes and rivers are largely populated by squid and cuttlefish, mirroring the great herds of armfish and market cuttles that stream through the gem-clear Eastern Seas. The Topal (and various other species of squid, though only a zoologist would call them anything but lake squid) is the most common lake and river dwelling animal in the East.
Topal, unlike many vertebrates, can continue to grow long into adulthood, but many cease to grow for no apparent reason. Therefore, these loligo exhibit a wide variety of sizes. Most Topal, however, are roughly the length of an adult’s forearm, perhaps a foot and a half, with tentacles stretching again that length. Lake cuttle have wide, wing-like fins on the sides of their mantles, and enormous eyes; their tentacles are equipped with thousands of smallish suckers encircled with tiny, prickly claws (not significant enough to badly hurt a human, but if the loligo gets a good enough grip, possibly equal to a cat scratch). Their beaks are the most dangerous portion- many a careless horse gangster jibeing by moonlight for lake cuttle has had his arm lacerated by his frantic catch’s snapping, serrated jaws, which exert enormous force. Most lake cuttle swim near the surface or in the lighted regions of the lake, gliding serenly and eerily through the waters in what many rural F’lorines call “the dance of arms” (on a side note, the term “dance of arms” has also come to refer to F’lorine peasant dance imitating the movement of loligo, also called “the squid waltz”).
A Topal’s body is soft and jelly-ish to the touch, and is generally colored a deep, bruise-like maroon. Unlike many sea squid, Topal generally do not have photoluminescent spots and organs (though some smaller species dwelling in the icy lakes beneath the constant northern twilight do).
As previously stated, loligo team in the lakes and rivers of the East, and are often the main sustenance of bottomland villages and lakeside towns; it is not uncommon to be served a dinner of fried cuttle, corn, and onions. It is believed that the squid themselves are largely cannibalistic, or possibly subsist on lake-bottom fish, though nobody is sure. Topal are generally shy, and do not attack humans (much to the benefit of young boys, known for their propensity for lake swimming), though if trapped they will become frantic and have even been known to leap from the water to snap and grab at aggressors.
Rumours and tales of “monster” Topal have been commonly swapped in the East for a century. It is common knowledge that in the depths of some deeper lakes, there are enormous lake squid who have never been caught, monsters as long as a mulecart or even longer, who dwell silently in the depths. Native Easterners (though the superstitious savages they are) believe these great squid to be gods or spirits, and in places such as Lake St. Ilbot in the eaves of the mountains north of the Aglaian border, locals make sacrafices to these water lords, whose tentacles have been known to emerge and wave in a sinister, eerie way on stormy nights and in the imaginations of spooked young’ns.
While many scientists of the West do not believe these tales (the common belief is that the cold water of the Eastern lakes does not allow animals to grow to large sizes), many of the zoologists of the far-eastern parts of F’lor have claimed that such creatures must exist, given the lake cuttle’s propensity for continuous growth their lifespan, and the tales of the mighty arch-squids of the oceans, told my whalers and jibemen everywhere.
Topal- name for the lake squid, from Low F’lorine to’pau la, “ink sprayer”.
Loligo- the Aglaian word for squid; being a landlocked nation, the Aglaians have not always been very familiar with squid biology- the name means “woman fish” (supposedly the fish used to be described as wearing a skirt or dress of arms)
Jibe (jibeing, jibemen)- to fish for squid; jibemen are fishermen of the ocean who net squid and cuttles.
Arch-squid- titanic squid and kraken of the oceans