An Annoying Itch

The grimple is a curious creature - perhaps the most pathetic of all the gremlins I encountered. Their appearance of an underfed, childlike creature with odd, almost amusing features makes them appear to be quite harmless. But while they will rarely threaten the life of anyone, their touch is far from harmless, for it brings about an itch more incessant than anything I've had the misfortune to experience in all of my journeys.
— Khala the Traveler in The Traveler's Guide to the Feywood
There are many hazards hidden in the Feywood for the unsuspecting or careless. The gremlins are many, and they bear ill will against others - often even against others of their own kind. And while most of these pests and terrors prefer the isolation of the deep woods away from any settlement, there are some who venture into the villages of the Folk from time to time, and one or two varieties that actually prefer the less-than-urban environment of a frontier settlement.

The Grimple seems to be, at first, the most innocuous of these village pests.. And they would be if it were not for a condition they are capable of inflicting upon anyone they touch. The treat they offer to any unlucky enough to be within arms reach is an infestation of Gremlin Lice.

Symptoms and Severity

Acquiring an infestation of gremlin lice is rarely fatal or permanently debilitating physically, but it can have an impact on a person's ability to function. The only symptom is a maddening itch wherever the lice choose to settle and "burrow in". This is almost always any place on a body that has a growth of hair: heads, beards, armpits, and private parts are almost always the first places to be affected.
The itch is persistent, and scratching can only soothe it for a minute or two at most. If not scratched or otherwise effectively treated, sufferers find it difficult to concentrate on anything that requires focus, and in the most severe circumstances they may thing of nothing other than scratching away the itch.

Acquisition and Onset

All it takes for one of the folk to acquire an infestation of gremlin lice is to be touched by a grimple. It is unclear whether the lice infest the grimple, treating it as a vehicle for spread, or whether the grimple magically generates an infestation with each touch. In any event, a simple touch is enough.

Given the grimple's penchant for huddling against buildings and appearing at first like a needy waif, it is not difficult for them to make contact with a number of folk before disappearing into whatever lair they have constructed for themselves. Once touched, the lice will travel undetected along body or clothing until they find a nice hairy spot to settle in. This generally takes no more than about 10 minutes.


Fortunately, it does not appear to be possible to spread gremlin lice from person to person; all indications are that the touch of a grimple is the only know source of the infestation.


Fortunately, treating an infestation of gremlin lice is as easy as acquiring it - provided the victim has access to copious amounts of water. Full-body immersion will kill the infesting lice. This can be in a bathtub, river, lake, or ocean, but complete immersion of the entire body at once is necessary. Simply washing will not remove the infestation, nor will dunking one body part at a time.

There are no commonly available treatments for the itch symptom other than scratching. As mentioned, vigorously scratching an itch area will relieve the itch for a short period. There are rumors of some herbal preparations that may deaden the sensations of the skin and thus provide relief, but these are not universally known.

Social Impacts

Sufferers of gremlin lice can usually expect to be avoided - even shunned - by some folk, and ridiculed by others. The incessant idle scratching suggests a general lack of hygiene that most find offputting. In villages where grimple incursions are common, the folk may be more understanding, but then they are likely to repeat the advice that the sufferer "go jump in the river", laughing as they do.

Among dwarves, constantly scratching at one's beard is considered very poor behavior. Hair and beard braids are clan symbols to be cared for; allowing them to become the homes of little pests is unworthy. Among the Awkwana, an infestation can be serious, as scratching at feathers often results in the sufferer plucking themselves - and as bare patches are usually a sign of disease, others will avoid the afflicted.


Character images made by RPGDinosaurBob using HeroForge™
Banner image made by RPGDinosaurBob using []Flowscape
Side panel background images courtesy of various contributors to Pixabay

Cover image: The Inn from the Bridge over Daphinia's Stream by RPGDinosaurBob (with Flowscape)


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