The body of water men call the 'Great Puddle' is vast in size--stretching many miles north-to-south and several miles west-to-east--yet is mysteriously shallow, rarely more than six feet deep anywhere.*
On the western shores of this boggy, mist enshrouded lake, dwell many tribes, humans of the Rain Clans among them. Countless villages dot the flat, moist, uninspiring landscape. Livings here are eked out, on and along the water as may be guessed, and amidst the moors and marshes which envelop the lake. Fishing and wildfowl hunting are the main pursuits of the taciturn, phlegmatic people who call this dreary place home.
Along the eastern shores of the Great Puddle however, few if any civilized folk can be found. Beyond the lake to the east are the 'Mist-Eaters', the dwellers-in-perpetual-fog.
Thick, roiling vapors impregnate the terrain here, and even adventurers give this place a wide berth, due to many factors, among them the incredibly poor visibility, the putrid humidity (and sudden frosts!), and the many malodorous, disease-carrying insects, which are active both day and night in this mist-shrouded realm.
This is a wild and untamed land, where humanoids long forgotten elsewhere, and other stranger, fouler creatures still dwell, unmolested by civilization's tentacles, rarely encroached upon by man, hidden as they are amidst the impenetrable marshes and gurgling bogs.
Though little is known of these lands among explorers and sages, some of the creatures have been documented by the many tribes of the Rain Clans, who live on the other side of the Great Puddle, who have occasionally encountered the 'mist-eaters', over the centuries.
Ogres, witches (ogre-witches!), the ever-secretive and unseen Mist Giants (with their opaque silver shields and mirrored helms), Bog-Trolls and their thralls, and perhaps the most mysterious, misunderstood, and feared of all, the 'ghost-faced killers' (as legends call them), the Wisz-Zool ('Mist-Eaters' in the no longer used Middle-Dwarven tongue), the dwarves of the Possum-Totem. There is much conjecture, but little truth, as to the nature of these dwarven 'cousins'.
During the Third Ogre War, which raged longer than two-hundred years, and more than twenty-thousand years ago, the dwarves were led by the brothers, Sturto and Droim Bitteraxe. The dwarven forces at that time were greatly outnumbered by the legions of ogres and their foul minions.
Sage who know such things (rare and far in-between) say that during one particular battle, one Oekkelstagg Mirrorshanks, a minor dwarven noble, led a charge of five hundred dwarves against a swarm of nearly ten thousand ogre-kin, in a suicidal assault, due to the untenable, defensive position Oekkelstagg's dwarves were facing at the time. From here on however, sages differ in their opinions on what exactly happened next, and most dwarves today, will refuse to even discuss the historical episode (particularly with non-dwarves.)
Suffice it to say, Oekkelstagg and a few dozen dwarves managed to somehow survive, and escaped with their lives, making their way back to the main armies, where the Bitteraxes, Sturto and Droim, were encamped. What was said between the dwarves that day will forever remain a mystery lost to time, but the end result was that Sturto and Droim accused Oekkelstagg of cowardice; a horrific humiliation for any dwarf to endure. Oekkelstagg considered the insult unforgivable, and out of pride, refused to even defend himself of the charges. In a furious rage, Oekkelstagg grabbed Droim's hand-axe and proceeded to saw his own beard in half, roughly chopping at his braided,snowy locks, until only hanging clumps of hair and whiskers remained.He then tossed the axe back to Droim and exclaimed, 'Never again.'
The truth of what happened that day in the dwarven war-tent will perhaps never be known, but it came to pass that the Bitteraxe brothers were hailed as heroes, while Oekkelstagg's brief historical mention, merely identified him as a coward and betrayer of the dwarven race, without going into specifics. Such is history.
A mighty gasp collectively echoed from the gathered dwarves, and the Bitteraxe brothers could only stare in astonishment, as Oekkelstagg severed his beard, breaking the greatest of dwarven taboos, then turning on his heel strode from the the war-tent, for all intents and purposes, never to be seen again. Approximately ninety dwarves followed Oekkelstagg out of the tent that night, after first following his example of half-heartedly chopping their beards just below their chins. The ninety were mostly members of Oekkelstagg's surviving battalion, his dwarven wives, as well as some of his cousins and hearth-kin.
Thus shamed and self-disgraced, the resentful and scorn-filled Oekkelstagg and his followers wandered as far away as they could from the dwarven mountains and the fields of battle, and the cities of men, until many months or even years later, they at last came upon the Great Puddle.
Crossing the 'Cloud-Soup' on makeshift canoes, the dwarves finally stopped their aimless sojourn and explored the mysterious new lands. It was here that Oekkelstagg's troop came face-to-face with Wathamapamthaa the Ghost-Possum, a bison-sized opossum with a bone-white, skull-like visage. This was a powerful nature-spirit of the fens and Oekkelstag took this incredible sighting as a sign that the dwarves new home was found. The Great Possum telepathically communicated with the dwarves that day, and the dwarves listened, and spoke back, and all told, to make long tales shorter, Okkelstagg's clan chose to remain here for all time, despite all of the inherent difficulties involved. They would be hidden away from their former brethren and the rest of the world in these impenetrable mists, revering a creature of legend and myth, and thus was 'born', the first Clan of the Possum.
In appearance the the Wisz-Zool resemble thinner, paler-skinned dwarves, slightly stooped. Their hair and unkempt half-beards tend toward grays, whites, and silvers. Their eyes tend to be cavernous and unhealthy in tint, and the milky skin on their faces taut, giving them an eerie skull-like countenance. Their lifespans it should be noted, are significantly lower than that of other dwarves. The average lifespan of a Wisz-Zool being one hundred and sixty years. This evolved trait is mostly due to the extremely noxious and toxic air of the swamps and marshes they call home. The mists have taken their toll over the centuries on even the hardy inherent constitutions of the Wisz-Zool. Conversely, as an advantage, Wisz-Zool are unlikely to ever be effected by poisonous fumes of any kind, outside of their own bogs.
Culture and Daily Life
Now, many thousands of years and hundreds of dwarven generations later, the Wisz-Zool, as they simply call themselves, still survive, even thrive, in their adopted environment in the mists, devoid of stone and rock and of memories of their former lives. They spend their time fishing the cloudy waters, exploring the endless marshes, brewing spirits, attuning themselves with the mists, revering the Ghost-Possum Wathamapamthaa, crafting their odd items, and battling their neighbors, the gruesome ogres, witches and trolls of the fens.
The Wisz-Zool are in many ways still dwarves, and yet in other ways differ from their ancestors in nature and outlook, as well as a few physical characteristics.
The Wisz-Zool are not typically xenophobic, merely ambivalent. They consider themselves masters of their domain, and are content to ignore the goings on of the fickle and war-like humans to the west. When it comes to dwarves (the Wisz-Zool no longer consider themselves to be dwarves) a slow-burn enmity still smolders. Some Wisz-Zool tend to 'loathe' their distant cousins, without even knowing why, the hate ingrained in them from past generations. The only known 'neighbors' the Wisz-Zool consider as allies, are the dwarves from the Tribes of the Beaver, who themselves cast-off the yolk of 'dwarvenhood' many years ago.
One of the tragic secrets of the Wisz-Zool is that they are dying out. There are currently three hundred and thirty surviving members of the Possum Clan, and only eight females among them.
Glossary of Terms
The Captured Giant
The Day the Dwarves Died Twice
Vanish-weed 'here one minute, gone the next' applies aptly to the wisz-zool, due to their incessant chewing of the Vanish-Weed. They are always chewing the weed before mounting on of their guerrilla attacks
Lucastag Mirrorshanks, 'the Coward' seventeenth of his name
Urst ulaStonemilk, his wife
Wurnagrizt 'Muckraker', shaman of the Ghost Possum
Bokdrol Spoeg, Wisz-Zool's best fighter
Hibiscus Gray-eyes, the only fertile female left in the tribe.
Silverwarp, Brizl, and Yurv, Wisz-Zool fighters
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