Of all the major races that inhabit Morvia, halflings garner the greatest reaction from just about anyone you talk to regarding them. In Morvia, halflings are an enslaved race. Bought, sold or traded like any commodity amongst the robber Barons of VeBrance, these are a people with little hope or freedom and as such have drawn a definite line for both sides, either against or for the ownership of these “little rats.”
Halflings originate from a large, mostly unexplored, jungle infested continent named Westrel that lies nearly 1000 leagues to the North-East of VeBrance. Being a primarily hunter-gatherer, tribal people, Halflings are unaccustomed to the trappings of the modern world and as such have had little contact with average Morvians. Halflings average 3 to 3.5 feet in height, with females only slightly smaller and slimmer. There are several tribes with their own name and dialect that seems to be immune to any magical attempts at deciphering what the various clicks, whistles and grunts would mean.
Currently, those who remain in the jungles of Westrel maintain their tribal culture, seeking to avoid the slave traders while their kin, who fall victim to the slave traders know only a life of servitude and slavery. To be treated as chattel to pay of a lords debts, or as a labourer to perform the undesirable jobs that those of the noble class refuse to do. It takes people to run a domain, and what better than those slaves who do not have a voice.
The small stature of the halflings differs from those of the Dwarves and the Gnomes in that their features are in perfect proportion to their size, and as such are normally mistaken for small children. averaging 3 to 3.5 feet in height and weighing no more than 90 lbs, halflings are truly the most diminutive in terms of size and weight. Their skin can range from a deep brown to a nearly black, ebony colour. Their eyes rarely deviate from brown to dark brown and their hair is typically black, with tight curls. Halflings, living in the wild jungles of Westrel frequently go without clothing and have been able to adapt to their harsh environments. They bodies are thin and lean, allowing halflings to be accomplished runners.
Halflings generally know two things. The jungle provides the necessities for life and tribe provides protection from the jungle. Beyond these two things, the life of the halfling is one that works towards one of these truths. Halflings don’t see things in terms of value beyond if it can be eaten or if it will kill them. They view the world as someplace both dangerous and wondrous, where survival is at the fore front of a halfling’s mind whether they hunt or build a congja (a small hut or hovel). The tribe is the halfling’s family and their life is dedicated to its protection and survivability.
As such, it is unknown what the halfling mind may perceive as a threat. In early writings by Lord Belshem of VeBrance in 581 rm, he wrote, “These halflings seem almost fatalistic in their view point. In fact, when one of my party produced a scarf made of VeBrancian silk, the chief, at least that’s what I called him, (who knows what they call their tribal leaders in their barbaric dialect) drew his cudgel and unceremoniously beat him until his skull caved in. Of course I had to kill the miserable savage.”
Halflings are mainly xenophobic in that they distrust all outsiders, including those who do not belong to their own tribe. As such they remain very insular, frequently going to war with neighbouring tribes when territorial disputes arise between them.
Halfling culture includes the various customs, practices and traditions common of a tribal people. It comprises archaic practices as well as new concepts added into the halfling culture either through evolution or outside influences. These customs and traditions include the halfling people’s visual art, music and dance forms, as well as their attire, cuisine and language dialects. Because of their various subgroups, the variety of their culture is heightened further.
The tribe is everything and is central to halfling society. Guided by an elder and an ancestral priest, the tribe communally raises their young, hunts game, gathers food and wages war among other tribes. There are numerous tribes among the halflings throughout Westrel, all with their own variation of cultural diversity. Most tribes compose of nearly 300-500 members with some larger tribes numbering in the thousands. Many tribes are stationary, seldom moving as long as water is plentiful and game abounds.
Nearly all tribes utilize percussion sounds to express both their association with their ancestors and to send messages to neighbouring tribes. Tribal gatherings occur when there is a double full moon to honour their ancestors. These gatherings are rather loud and colourful affairs, where certain fungal plants are consumed, creating a trance-like state where the tribal members cavort with the spirits of those who came before. These gatherings are called Gra-Goran and are central to the spiritual well being of the tribe.
Halflings are also known for their tribal statuary that surround their jungle settlements. Made from the wood gathered from jungle trees, these statues are used to protect the tribe, to mark territory and to designate places of burial.
Due to the extremely humid conditions in the jungles of Westrel, Halfling clothing is mostly ceremonial during all Gra-Goran gatherings, where males dress in elaborate costumes representing their ancestors while the women and children dress as mythical jungle creatures and animals. Otherwise, most halflings go without any clothing, choosing rather to remain unfettered, especially when hunting.
Family & Marriage
It is a truism to halflings that it takes a village to raise a child. Whenever a child is born, the tribal elder performs a veneration ceremony, welcoming the young soul from the realm of the ancestors. The tribe is then responsible for teaching the child the way of the halfling. Marriage and family are also the center point of the halfling culture. When a man and woman are bonded in marriage, the ancestor priest unites them in the eyes of their honored dead. These ceremonies are held in the graveyard where the groom and bride’s family are buried. There the priest communes with ancestors of the groom and bride to seek their blessing. Halflings maintain monogamous unions.
The Halfling Language
The halfling language, as described by one who is an outsider resembles nothing more than a collection of clicks, whistles, grunts and humming, all utilized in a seemingly random fashion. When explorers from VeBrance first landed in Westrel in the year 557 rm, there was an immediate communication break down between the halflings and VeBrancians. Without a means of communicating, other than simple gestures, the small folk of the jungle remained a mystery. Magic could not decipher the halfling tongue and to this day, no human or other humanoid in fact has learned the halfling language.
In addition to their spoken language, halflings also maintain a written language. Described as spiral loops with notches cut into them along the spiral line, these markings are found carved into stone, clay, slate, trees, or any other surface they can cut into. To this day, similar to their oral language, no one has been successful in deciphering their written language.
What is curious however, is those halflings who have been sold into slavery have been able to learn and speak the tongues of their masters quite readily.
As no one can speak the tongue of halflings, it is not surprising that not much is known of the halfling origins according to their viewpoint. What has been learned from various slaves from various masters is simply a patchwork of legends and myths. It is believed that halflings see themselves as part of the jungle where they came from and that their ancestors created the world. The stars in the heavens represent the spirits of the ancestors doing their work for the halflings below. Watching over their kind, the spirits ensure the jungle remains everlasting. As such, halflings do not worship gods.
In the year 557 rm VeBrancian explorers sailed west in search of new lands and opportunities for wealth. When they landed upon the shores of Westrel, they found an untapped land of seemingly endless resources. With more explorers pushing further into the jungles, the first meeting with the halflings occurred. It did not go well. Nearly all of the expedition were killed, wounded or captured, forcing the exploration of the dark continent to be abandoned. It wasn’t until the year 581 rm that larger and better armed expeditions were made to Westrel where contact with the halflings was made once again. This expedition was led by renowned explorer Lord Belshem who saw an opportunity. Bringing gifts of the modern world, including magic, weapons and gold, Lord Belshem was able to befriend the local tribe of halflings. Over the next two summers, he taught then VeBrancian culture, language, and customs. He was also able to drive a wedge between this tribe and those who lived deeper in the jungles.
Lord Belshem was commissioned by The Prelate Council, a consortium of lords, barons and knights who, by proclamation of the Senate were able to purchase the many small islands around VeBrance, to locate an expendable workforce to tend to their lands. Some of the islands were quite sizable and to successfully work the land, it required a workforce much larger than the current population of VeBrance could provide. It was agreed that a chattel slave trade would be established, and in the year 563 rm the first slaves were shipped to VeBrance. By the year 600 rm there was an estimated 100,000 slaves in VeBrance and Westrel where VeBrancian colonies have become viable. Today the total slave count is around 600,000.
There are several detractors of the slave trade throughout Morvia, including the nations of Eresbor, The Divided Kingdoms and The Telesean States. The Territories maintains a neutral position with respects to slavery.