The Ruins of Amidia
Halflings are the most populous race on Espar. Occupying the central hills and trade routes of the continent, they are a race built for travel, flexibility, and adaptation. These are skills that served them well in the Fenlander Wars; along with the Orcs, the Halflings were the most devastated race on the continent.
Halflings have always had a nomadic tradition, and those who still reside in the hills keep up the traditional migration routes. After the war, however, many Halflings settled in permanent or semi-permanent settlements along the largest rivers and the southern shores on the Sea of Fortune. These settlements, originally intended for purposes of defense, soon outgrew their fortress walls, and are now large, colorful masses of makeshift buildings in a constant state of construction.
Halflings live in tightly knit extended family groups or tribes. Most of a person’s life is spent with their tribe, serving in whatever capacity their natural talents and inclinations lead them. All members of a tribe are expected to contribute, even the children and elderly, and laziness and apathy are believed to be the worst traits a person could have.
Tribes are arranged into larger groupings of clans. Halfling clans lay claim to different areas of land, towns, or migration paths. Marriages often take place outside of the tribe, but almost never outside of the clan. Clan leaders meet every two years during a month-long midsummer festival called Atar-rati , during which there are games, contests, and the opportunity for tribes from far-flung corners of the continent to trade and interact with each other.
There are five major clans in existence today, each made up of a dozen or more tribes of varying sizes. Each clan’s land holdings have helped shape the industries and habits of its members:
Mountain Goat Clan: This clan holds the western-most lands of any Halfling tribe, from the foot of the Loranian Plateau through the Gold Road Pass and scattered throughout the Southern Shroudvine Mountains. The Mountain Goat Clan is known for its fine goldsmiths. Prominent tribes: Star House Tribe, Gold Dust Tribe, Far Out Fort Tribe.
Dog Clan: The Dog Clan, currently the largest and most powerful of the Halfling clans, controls the central hills of the Halfling territories. This clan is best known for its powerful and well-trained riders. Prominent tribes: Golden Armor Tribe, Between the River Fork Tribe, Hilltop Tribe.
Singing Waters Clan: This clan occupies the northern tip of the Halfling territories, bordering both the Gnome Holds and the Fenlands. This clan is particularly skilled at river trade, and can be found aboard barges nearly as often as astride a dog. Prominent tribes: Rabbitfoot Tribe, Small Lake Tribe, Thistledown Tribe, Bitter Water Tribe.
Spear Clan: The most sedentary of all the Halfling clans. After the Fenlander Wars, this clan settled on the southern coast of Espar and became very involved in fishing and sea trade. Prominent tribes: Horseshoe Crab Tribe, Coast Town Tribe, Tribe From Across the Water.
Thistle Clan: The eastern-most Halfling clan. This clan is the smallest in population, and the most traditional of all Halfling Clans. They are renowned for their fighting and hunting prowess, as well as for their powerful shamans. Prominent tribes: Golden Eagle Tribe, Running Doe Tribe, The Opening of the Day Tribe, Dog Teeth Tribe.
Religion & Magic
Halflings believe in an expansive host of nature spirits who inhabit the environment around them. While these spirits are not worshiped in any formal way, there is a large oral tradition regarding the appeasement of these spirits to enable good hunts, birthing, weather patterns, and other everyday occurrences.
Held in higher esteem are the legendary heroes of the Halfling Sagas. These heroes range from historical leaders to mythical giants who shaped the hills and rivers. While still not worshiped in the traditional sense, these heroes often appear in popular stories and in decorative motifs.
Shamans are the spiritual leaders of the tribes, as well as the keepers of magical knowledge. The most senior of shamans are masters of many types of magic. Lesser shamans will aid the head shaman in performing routine rituals and bits of magic, particularly divinations and other readings of omens and signs. Shamans are closely associated with deer and stags, and during ceremonies and other special occasions can be easily picked out by their elaborate mock-antler golden headdresses.
Shamans oversee celebrations and rituals pertaining to life events, such and birth and deaths. Their most intimate involvement occurs during time of initiations, however. During liminal times for people in the tribe, it is the Shaman’s duty to care for their needs, lead them, and act as elder and parent when no other member of the tribe may do so. Initiations, cleansings, and other transformational rites differ from clan to clan and tribe to tribe, but all Halflings look to their shamans to direct these vital and uniting rituals.
Halflings, as traditionally nomadic peoples, do not often have possessions they cannot carry easily on their person. Their most valued possessions are their riding dogs, which are specially bred for speed and strength. The Dwarves have a saying about the Halflings: “they are born to the saddle,” and the saying is not far off. Riding is a vital skill in the lives of Halflings, and it permeates every corner of their culture. Dogs are believed to have been created alongside Halflings, as two parts of the same being. Halfling riding dogs come in a range of colors and patterns from dark brown to nearly white, and typically stand between three and three-and-a-half feet tall. Their coats are kept carefully brushed and cut to the individual rider’s preferences. Popular cuts include overall-long (the coat is allowed to grow long to a uniform length, and kept carefully trimmed at that single length), short with a mane (where the coat is kept long only around the neck, to allow for easy handling while riding), and decorative shaving (in which geometric patterns are shorn into the coats, especially along the back haunches).
The second-most valuable asset to Halflings are their herds of goats and, in the western regions, cattle. Traditional migration routes followed the feeding migrations of these herds. The goats and cattle are mostly kept for their milk (and the resulting dairy products) and their harvested hair, which is woven into garments, tents, and other products, along with leather. The thick mats which are woven by Halfling craftmasters for covering the floors and walls of their tents are especially beautiful, and held in high regard by many races. Occasionally, herd animals are slaughtered for meat, but this is only in times of great scarcity or on special occasions. The rest of the year, Halflings subsist on what can be hunted or gathered from the area around them.
This pattern of herding and movement has been broken somewhat by the Spear Clan. Most of the tribes of the Spear Clan have settled on the warm southern coast of Espar in permanent villages. They have still kept their gathering habits, but have instead turned their riding and herding skills into sailing and fishing. The Halfling sailors of the Spear Clan have not forgotten their race’s legendary navigation skills, and are considered the most daring and skilled sailors on the waters.
Gold is a favored ornament of Halflings. Aside from their dogs and herds, gold is a signal of wealth. Fine gold jewelry and ornaments are produced by Halfling artists, particularly in the Mountain Goat Clan. It is not uncommon to see both men and women wearing gold earrings, necklaces, and rings, though hair ornaments and bracelets are almost exclusively worn by women. Gold plays a prominent role in important life cycle celebrations, and is a traditional costume element in many occasions.
Halflings are somewhat infamous for their use of intoxicating substances of nearly every variety, both for ritual and recreational purposes. However, like most aspects of Halfling culture, the specifics of their use varies from tribe to tribe.