Ickles are a parasitic organism that live in the bodies of modern day Ghyllians. Although they've been around for as long as we can remember, there has been no conclusive or documented proof of their existence before -250 EC, probably attributable to our lack of scientific know-how (or so the Council would have you believe!). Exactly what the organisms get from their host besides their continued existence is unknown, but they've been known to cause anxious consternation in the infected.
The chief cause of this consternation is accountable to the curious means of reproduction that an Ickle partakes in. Unlike the wooing and howling that we're known to act out, there are no "male" and "female" portions of Ickle "society", merely the "Ickus" and the "Ickus Concipio". The Ickus is equipped with a dagger-like aedeagus used to puncture a hole in the Ickus Concipio, which is then filled with a large deposit of the Ickuses semen. After a short gestation, five to twelve new Ickles are born, ready to start the process anew.
Unfortunately, the Ickus Concipio is the Ghyllian throat. When the need arises, an Ickle will crawl upwards into the throat, find a particularly tasty spot, and begin procreation. The incessant stabbing of the aedeagus causes some mild irritation, resulting in uncontrollable coughs (and originated the phrase "I have an Ickle in my throat"). As modern research into hygiene proved that Ickles can be expelled during these convulsions, many suggest rather strongly to "cover your mouth when you cough" so as to prevent spreading.
The actual act of procreation doesn't truly affect the host in any sort of damaging way... the pain only comes during the birthing period, when the Ickle babies burst forth from the partially healed throat wall. The hurt is further compounded by the coughing fit that follows, making a bad situation even more ragged. Umlaut Tea has been known to strengthen the recovery process... unfortunately, it has no effect on the mental state of the violated individual.
Rarely, when a baby Ickle has not been expelled from the Ghyllian's throat, it will find its way upwards and burrow into the soft spot of said Ghyllian's carapace, where it will grow and flourish, eventually attaching itself deeper and deeper into said Ghyllian's brain. This is commonly called retrackets.
The origins of Ickles has been attributed to one of two possibilities, both of which are firmly rooted in the realm of idiocy. The first suggests that an overly drunk Pyxie shapeshifted into the First Ickle, and in the randy state generally typical of said overly drunk Pyxie, attacked the first passerby he saw. After impregnating the unassuming throat, he fell backwards into the belly of the beast, unable to shapeshift back to his normal self. The common wives' tale that "your face will freeze like that", a warning to misbehaving children, can be roughly traced to this particular origin story.
The other equally preposterous possibility is that the Ickles are made "in the image of Ickus", a god of the Alezan pantheon. As the people of Alezan slowly disappeared, the collective feeling of the gods was one of pure and simple survival: what better way to become a living heart, a living core, of Ghyll than to become nearer the hearts and cores of Ghyllians themselves? Their purported answer was quite literal and very representative of the "willies" many Ghyllians report when thinking of the ne'er forgotten pantheon and "aggressive aedeaguses in our feed tubes".
--Morbus Iff 14:49, 12 Nov 2004 (EST)