The duwende (dū-WEN-dā) is a tiny luminous fae creature, cousin to the European Will O’ The Wisp, and are as likely to lead a traveler astray as to guide them to safety. Duwenden congregate in underground caverns and water passageways in the American and Canadian Midwest and will likely be familiar to students at Great Plains School of Magical Arts as they make their way to the school each fall.
Duwenden live in colonies beneath the earth and only leave their cavern in times of crisis and to swarm. Duwenden colonies have a eusocial hierarchy and colonies consist of sterile females forming castes of “workers,” “soldiers,” or other specialized groups, some fertile males called “drones,” and one or more fertile females called “queens.”
Most encounters with a duwende are with the worker-class, which are mischievous but harmless. The soldiers and queens can attack and cause blindness, first degree burns, and a strange condition where the victim is unable to use any magical powers that enhance vision. This magical blindness is usually temporary, but in rare cases can be permanent.
Duwende colonies can grow to as large as 2,000 to 5,000 duwenden. Duwende swarming occurs naturally as a result of overcrowding a cavern. During a swarm, an old queen leaves the colony with about half of the colony’s workers, while a new queen remains in the cavern with the rest of the workers. Duwenden swarm most in late spring and early summer, exactly at midnight. The sight has been described as breathtaking.
A duwende is able to glow at birth. Duwenden produce a sort of ectoplasm (colloquially known as “the goo”) which they store for food. Usually a pale green, glowing liquid, it can be other colors if the colony is unhealthy. If duwenden are attacked, they can “pop” which sprays the ectoplasm on their attackers.
Duwenden dwell in caves and caverns in the midwestern United States and Canada.
A duwende appears as a small pale green sphere internally illuminated by a swirling glow. It produces an ectoplasm which can be concentrated into a weapon.
Duwenden survive on ectoplasm created by draining the life force of plants outside their caves. The process of draining does not kill the plant, but has been known to retard its growth and rate of photosynthesis. Duwende are also known to feed on the life force of mosses and molds within their caverns
Ectoplasm is a powerful magical ingredient and can be concentrated into a weapon. Some magi farm duwenden and use them to light their underground chambers. There are spells that can use duwenden to carry messages great distances. Duwenden possess a sort of homing instinct that allows them to return to their queen regardless of where they are.
It requires a particularly persistent and mean-spirited Wizard to provoke duwenden. That said, it has been known to happen by unfortunate accident where a bumbling sort may create the appearance of aggression toward the duwende Queen. Any individual duwende can safely be ignored, but a swarm will require the Wizard to have suitable eye protection at the ready. A lightning spell is the best defense against a duwende swarm, as it causes a chain-reaction of explosions among them, leaving a puddle of ectoplasm behind. For more widespread extermination, introducing skree lichen to their environment will eventually poison their ectoplasm and wipe out the infestation.