(This guest post brought to you by VM!)

The jihari run most of the trade townships in the midnight zone and control the transoceanic supply of gossip. There’s nothing a jihari  doesn’t know, they say, and everything they won’t tell you, except, of  course, for gold. It’s ten coins to know the way, fifty to know who did  what, three hundred to know where somefish is, and for a thousand… well,  just say the word. They’re hardcore about their clans, too: the Afzul  control the southern seas, the Mijohar have the east and northeastern  winterwaters, the Pelsuri hold the westernmost fringes of the Kashore  Bay rich in kugail, and the Hoshal are the legendary errand-runners.

It’s hard to break into these holds but it’s not like many are trying either. The jihari,  for their formidable size and agility – being the bear-sized pelagic  spiders that they are – aren’t very violent. No; their competitors don’t  try too hard because of the xolang. A hundred or so feet downwater of every jihari tradepost is a colony of a few dozen xolang. Almost all newcomers, and quite a few boneheaded raiders, mistake xolang homes for the prized jihari eggs. The two do look quite similar, in shape, size and hue, but it shouldn’t take a jihari to tell you that once you enter a xolang house, you don’t get out except through a xolang arse.

The xolang resemble the catfish but are bigger, about as big  as a mid-sized crocodile, and have no trouble floating. But the biggest  difference is the xolang sirophol: a fibrous substance that the xolang ejaculate through tiny sphincters behind their gills. The sirophol  reacts with water and turns into slime – a vicious amount of slime. If  you swim into this stuff, it’s like glue on the skin, and it stinks too,  attracting all manner of vermin, and the bloody gossan. But when the slime is left untouched for an hour or so, it half-solidifies to become a cartilaginous mass that the xolang collect and mould into bulbous shelters on rocky outcrops.

Whatever falls on or lands on or descends to or swims into these sirophol domes – there’s no escape (unless there’s a bubu on it). The xolang inside senses the vibration and pulls its prey further into the dome. In this time, the digestive enzymes the xolang has spit into the sirophol kill the unfortunate creature, and dinner is served.

The jihari and the xolang don’t have an explicit pact to work together but they almost always do. When the jihari plan to set up a new tradepost, they often ring their settlement on all sides, and the bottom, with large boulders that the xolang can settle and breed on. The jihari also clear the waters around of any bubu, one or two of which can obliterate a sirophol dome. The xolang like the jihari because they keep to themselves; but perhaps more importantly, jihari  businesses generates copious amounts of trash – including the  occasional raider-pack condemned to death – and food is never in short  supply.

They say the two species have been working together since they first  came to be, and it’s not hard to believe. However, I did hear from a  Hoshal jihari runner that there’s trouble brewing in Kashore Bay, where the xolang trapped and killed entire schools of kugail that the Pelsuri jihari had wanted to trade. Interesting…

Inspiration: Hagfish.