Halfling: Relations, Environment, Society, Religion

Halflings are versatile in many different ways. They may lack the same level of adaptability that humans possess, nor rival their knack for diplomacy. Still, halflings, when welcomed, have proven to be valuable allies to those who deal with them.

Since halflings often come bearing news, goods, stories, or at least spirited personalities, they are often granted an extra measure of the freedom they so desire when in regions inclined to indulge them. However, such allowances rarely change their behavior. Indeed, most halflings would not notice they were being given a reprieve, since they often believe procedures and protocol do not apply to them to begin with.

These wandering halflings are used to being visitors in the cities of the taller folk, for there are no true halfling cities. There is at least one city that was founded by a halfling, and another that came to have halflings in its ruling body. However, the closest one might come to a uniquely halfing city is a gathering of many clans. For a time, the many tents, wagons and camps of a clan gathering may create the illusion of a city, but even this is transient. Looking at these gatherings, one thing is certain: it will not be long before the entire city is packed up and disappears again.

The transient nature of halfling settlements and their nomadic lifestyles make it easy to find halflings anywhere. While settled families are most often found near good farmland with gently rolling hills, other halfings take to existing trade routes or may even create their own, traveling along roads with goods to be bartered. These two lifestyles may be the most frequent choices of home among the halflings, but clans have been known to establish themselves almost anywhere. One can find halfling clans on mountain peaks, in the deep forest, among the desert sands, and even on the occasional moor.

One thing that is not at all affected by a settlement's location is the ferocity with which a halfling may defend his or her home. Many halflings, particularly those devoted to Deliar, still wander the world as their race did years before the Cataclysm. However, many have since found a small piece of the world to call their own, no longer bound to travel without respite, no longer needing to smile in hardship while searching for a home that was lost to them or destroyed. When this wandering people finally settle down and build a home, it is not lightly given up. Even those that have no home at all will not hesitate to aid those who do in defending theirs.

Another thing all halflings share is a common family structure. Whether they are born into a group of wanderers that holds to the traditional nomadic lifestyle, a community of peaceful farmers diligently working the land, or a family that lives alongside the taller folk in their human cities, all halflings are born into large clans formed of many families. The leader of these halfling communities is the Clan Mother, who is sometimes called the Storyteller. She holds the wisdom of the clan's past and the teachings that will carry it into the future, and shares these stories with the younger generations. The Storyteller holds a vital role in the clan, for while halflings in general have a fine appreciation for good tales and their importance, it is rare for them to be shared in anything but oral form. With no books or recordings of history such as tall folk use, the passing of lessons learned from generation to generation is done from memory, by word of mouth.

Children are treasured among halflings and the Clan Mother is mother to them all, though her face changes with the landscape. In the farmlands the Storyteller may be a plump woman with a flour-dusted apron, telling the group of children aiding her how love is the most important ingredient in a pie. She may appear deceptively plain and is frequently overlooked by tall people in diplomatic endeavors, yet it is her counsel that often matters most. Few outside of halfling communities would realize that wearing more braids than any other woman signified anything in particular. Among the caravans, the Storyteller may wear colored beads in her braids and dance with the others at the fire, but even her hundred tales of all the clever tricks Deliar played in his long life on the road serve their purpose in shaping the clan's future. Names may be changed, dates may be irrelevant, and deeds may be exaggerated until they are ridiculous enough to have the wagonmasters wiping tears from their eyes, but if there is a treasured truth within the tale that survives the night, then the Storyteller has fulfilled her purpose.

Just as the role of the Clan Mother is often a mystery to outsiders, there is much that the taller folk do not understand about the unique halfling way of life. Other races know little of halfling culture and typically don't care to learn more. However, even outsiders usually note that halflings have a different method of family naming. In most cultures on Layonara, a family's name (or surname) will be inherited from the father, and a woman will change her name when she weds. Being a matrilineal culture, the opposite is true among the halflings. Their family name is their mother's, and if anyone in a marital union chooses to take another's name, it would be the husband taking the wife's. There is no documented rule, yet halflings in general don't seem to fathom there being any other sensible way to go about things. Where some human cultures feature men taking multiple wives, it is not unheard of or contested for a halfling woman, especially a clan mother, to have more than one husband, particularly if she belongs to the caravans rather than the homestead.

The clearest representation of halfling society to outsiders is in their religion. There are few halflings that do not, in some way, worship the Divine Couple. From the bonds of family, to the love of exploration and new things to trade, to raising children and the notion of the sacred hearth, Prunilla and Deliar encompass much of what halflings hold dear. While it is not uncommon for a halfling to find devotion for another deity when mingling with other races, it is rare to find them in service to a god opposed to the Couple. Even then, it is difficult to take the Couple out of the halfling; for in every coin flip and path unexplored there is a glimpse of Deliar, and in every pinch of love dashed into the best baking possible there is the warm touch of Prunilla.

The most notable exception to this rule of worship is a god who possesses all the history and traits of what it is to be halfling, but changes and warps these principles. When curiosity becomes greed, when stealth leads to murder, when it is no longer enough to embarrass and play tricks, and when practicality and simplicity give way to overwhelming avarice and the desire to possess, there is Branderback. However, you will not find Branderback's followers sharing a hearth with Lady Comfort's devoted children. Where those of Prunilla give birth, raise children, care for the crops, or provide comfort on the long road, there is no room for the Black Hound. His followers are more often found in the cities of the world, where they thrive in the underground.