Halflings have been a long-standing fixture in the floodplain of the Lifeblood. Like the Nomadi, the Halflings roamed the fecund land around the river for centuries or more before the Pharosi came upon it. Where the Nomadi remained close to the river, however, the Halflings treated the whole region much as they did the surrounding lands – one place of many. Their travels frequently took them beyond the bountiful cradle of the river, and saw them explore the Sandwaste, Dunes of Endless Sun, Scablands, and areas further still. Halflings still maintain this lifestyle, much like many Nomadi, and roam throughout what is now Rekkar-Sarrat and the surrounding lands, calling no place home and every land a road.
The Halflings have been traveling throughout Rekkar-Sarrat since the Vagrant Age, though even they are unsure of their true origins. Like the Nomadi, the Halflings constantly moved, but their level of vagrancy was beyond that of the humans, for their travels took them far beyond the lands of the river. It is uncertain if the Halflings were present before or after the Nomadi or Shuka originally, but they together were the first three races to impact the floodplain substantially. During these times, the Halflings had peaceful relationships with both of the other races, but especially with the Nomadi. Their travels through the northern and central regions of the floodplain put them in contact with the humans often, and the two groups rarely, if ever, had an altercation. They would assist each other in troubling times, trade with one another, and exchange traditions, news, and technologies. Due to the Halflings far range of travel, they often brought interesting materials, tools, and ideas from the lands beyond, directly influencing the culture of the Lifeblood peoples. They even had a direct hand in the evolving ecology of the region, as they introduced exotic beasts and plants to the floodplain as well.
There were not many Halflings in the land of the river when the Pharosi first appeared. Though their absence from the floodplain could sometimes last for a generation as they explored lands beyond, there were always at least a few tribes moving throughout the Nomadi and Shuka lands, but at the time of the Pharosi’s invasion there was a peculiar lack of Halfling presence altogether. Whether this absence was sheer coincidence, or the Halflings somehow anticipated the coming of the Pharosi, they were generally spared the initial wrath of the conquest. They returned about ten years after the invasion, but never actually crossed paths with the Pharosi, as their travels kept them in the northern portion of the floodplain and the Pharosi were still concentrated in the southernmost reaches. Thus, they continued moving on as nothing had changed, trading with the Nomadi of the north as they crossed the plain and disappeared beyond its borders once again.
It was a few centuries later that the Halflings and the Pharosi finally did meet. The Pharosi had recently finished driving the Shuka out of Rekkar-Sarrat and looked upon the Halflings as the next race to enslave or exile. Where the Shuka were proud and resistant, the Halflings were passive, almost subservient. Their travels had exposed them to the cruel intents of many peoples, and they knew best how to deal with such aggression non-violently. The Halflings had no intention of claiming land as their own, nor contesting the Pharosi claim of the river. They had no qualms about accepting the Pharaohs as the new masters of that land, and only asked that they be allowed to use the region as a road, as they ever have. In return, the Halflings would spread word of the great Pharaohs to the surrounding lands, as well as bring the Pharosi information from the regions beyond, and would grant a gift tax to the Pharaoh of any land they crossed.
Flattery was something that the Halflings learned long ago could help them avoid violence. In the end, the Pharaohs granted the Halflings their request, for they realized that they did not need to waste their time on those who did not dare contest them, at least not yet. Additionally, no Pharaoh could dismiss the idea of his divine name being carried into foreign lands, nor deny any opportunity for a gift. Thus, the Halflings were allowed to continue unmolested with their ways.
Halfling life did not much change after the Pharosi conquered the river. Their travels continued and they kept their word, spreading the names of the Pharosi and their God-Kings to the peoples with whom they dealt with in the surrounding regions. Humorously, these peoples did not much care about the lands of the river nor who claimed mastery over it. Nevertheless, the Halflings told them. As Rekkar-Sarrat evolved and grew and flourished, the Halflings continued to use it as one of their many roads, though they were equal parts impressed and dismayed by the cultivation. Though they felt wonder and awe in the shadow of the cities and the monuments, they also saw the fate of many Nomadi and how life in the floodplain was changing. For a long while, most Halfling caravans steered clear of the settlements the Pharosi had built, preferring to keep their wanderings to the wilderness in between or in the company of the Nomadi in the Nomadi’ai.
With the progression of the centuries, however, so too did Halflings move forward. Some tribes began to make stops at the cities where they found eager buyers and traders interested in goods from other lands. So too were the Halflings intrigued by things that even they had never seen, brought down the river from lands far beyond the desert. More and more Halflings began to stop in on the cities and rest their caravans nearby, soon finding that their information, knowledge, rumors, and secrets of other lands were valuable commodities as well. Many expeditions and treasure hunts began from the word of a Halfling in these times. Some Halflings, as the generations went on, set up permanent shop in the settlements of the river or at least staked vested interest within them. Still, just like the Nomadi, others continued to steer clear of the trappings of such a life and continued to roam the wilderness and maintain their lifestyle. Most Halflings still roam, but they aren’t as uncommon in the cities as they once were.
Halflings are small, lithe race, standing just over three feet in height and weighing only around thirty pounds. Males are slightly taller and heavier than females on average. Skin tone among Halflings ranges from fair to brown, with middling to darker tones being more common due to constant exposure to the sun. Eye color among Halflings is dominantly green or yellow, but blue and brown are seen as well. Male Halflings often have beards to protect against the wind, and most Halflings of both genders have bushy eyebrows that help to shield their eyes from the sun. Halflings, like other nomads of the waste, tend to wear light, flowing clothing that breathes well. Their clothing is usually spun of plant fibers are from the hair of the animals they tend. Hats and scarves are common among them, but they often go barefoot and have tough, resilient feet because of this.
Halflings have a mindset that is very similar to that of the Nomadi, a race with whom they have had excellent relations with for thousands of years. Some have come to refer to the Halflings as “Little Nomadi,” a label that the Halflings do not seem to mind. Halflings are a very traditional people for the most part and put great stock in their history and heritage. They are patient and thoughtful, quick to think but slow to act, but are not rigid in their outlook. Halflings understand the need to be flexible – they must bend with the whims of the wind, the land, the weather, and those who they encounter – and thus are flexible in their thoughts and opinions as well. This allows them to largely avoid confrontation and makes them easy to get along with and they are much more apt at making friends than enemies. Most Halflings absolutely hate arguments and fights, something that is ingrained in their deep and old culture. Arguments waste time, and though Halflings are a methodic people, in their chosen way of life nonsensical wastes of time can be dangerous. If two Halflings are in disagreement, they will politely and cooperatively come to a compromise that is in the best interest of both parties. Halflings do their best to do such with other races as well, but many other people do not think the same way, so Halflings are prone to conceding to the views and opinions of others even if they do not agree. This has led some to think the Halflings are timid and easily walked upon, but in reality Halflings just don’t see the point of pointless argument. If it is something that will affect negatively their clan, family, or caravan, they will be more defensive, but otherwise have little need for debate or boast.
This tendency to avoid confrontation also makes the Halflings a naturally peaceful people. They like physical altercations as little as they do verbal ones, and do their best to avoid such conflict. Still, they are not so naive as to render themselves defenseless and are not unfamiliar with battle or combat. Violence is simply a last resort to them, with arbitration and discussion and compromise being the preferred method of resolution, and if those don’t work then often times Halflings are just as willing to drop the issue altogether rather than come to blows. If attacked, the Halflings will readily defend themselves and their kith and kin, but are virtually never the aggressors.
Halflings have a very strong sense of community. Though they can seem aloof or flighty to outsiders, Halflings value deep, lifelong bonds and commitments. Despite not making passionate or inspired enemies, they are the truest of friends. Friendship, family, and kinship is incredibly important to every Halfling and betraying one’s family or friends is one of the most horrible offenses a Halfling can inflict. This leads to them generally thinking of the group more than the individual when it comes to decision making, and rarely is a Halfling a selfish or self-serving person. This is not to say that no value is put on individuality, but Halflings find a way to balance their personal freedoms with the good of their people. Halflings will go to great lengths to help their friends and family, even if that sentiment is not returned. Halflings are respectful of nature and have natural inclinations towards animals. They have strong bonds with the animals of their clans and caravans just as they do with its other Halfling members. Many Halflings adopt vegetarian lifestyles due to the bonds they share with these animals.
Perhaps most integral to the Halfling psychology is their ubiquitous sense of wanderlust. Halflings can rarely stay in one place for long, as the wind calls to them to move and roam. For as reserved, thoughtful, and methodical as they are, Halflings can grow irritable if they stay in one place for too long. They need the sky above them, the earth beneath their feet, and the boundlessness of the horizon. Some Halflings in the current age have adopted more settled lifestyles, but even they cannot completely shake the call of the open air, and those who now dwell in cities or towns often are drawn to professions or livelihoods that allow them this need. Most Halflings are overwhelmed and unsettled by the sheer size and audacity of towns and cities, with their great stationary populations and structures. Though Halflings are quite used to encountering exotic locales, peoples, customs, items, and foods, the confinement of so many of them in one place is often disorienting to the small, homogeneous caravans of the Halflings and they are often gone just as soon as they get the supplies they need.
As a result of both their regular forays into wild lands often seen as dangerous and of their patron deities representing safety amidst danger and courageous freedom, Halflings tend to be a brave lot. Though they are not generally reckless, they do not allow themselves to get caught up by fear of the little- or unknown. Their strong sense of community reinforces this trait, allowing for a network of peoples unafraid of new lands, new peoples, new creatures, and new experiences.
Society and Government
Halflings maintain an egalitarian social structure. Having survived in the desert wastes for millennia, a strong sense of community and equality is bred deep into them. Safety in numbers is a life code for Halflings, knowing full and well that their survival, particularly when traveling to openly hostile lands, has been because of their unity as well as their guile and wit. Halflings have three levels of society – the family, the clan, and the caravan. The family is, unsurprisingly, a group of Halflings related by blood. A clan is a group of families, usually consisting of three to four with the largest clans having up to eight. The families of a clan are sometimes related, either by blood or by marriage, but sometimes clan is formed by unrelated families who and together out of necessity. A caravan is generally a collection of clans that travel together, though they are not always all together. Caravans are the closest things Halflings have to a concept of a town or city, though they build no permanent structures and are often spread out. In the Vagrant Age, the whole caravan was almost always together when the world was bigger and resources were more. In current times caravans split up their members into smaller groups to give more space and resources to its members. These fractions of the caravan still identify as being part of the whole, however, and the whole of that caravan are usually still in the same general vicinity or geographical locations spread many miles apart.
Halflings name no true leaders among them. They do not have chiefs or kings or lords. Most caravans recognize an elder or group of respected older Halflings as advisors, guides, and voices of reason, but decisions in a caravan are ultimately made by consensus, for as much as the Halflings value unity, camaraderie, and equality, they also understand the importance of individualism. Though their expressions of personal freedom are slightly more subdued than their non-desert counterparts, Halflings are still taught to follow their whims and their dreams as long as they do not weaken or threaten the caravan. Issues and decisions are presented to all adults of the caravan and a resolution is reached by a vote or compromise.
A life of caravanning has also led the Halflings to become natural shepherds. Caravans keep several animals with them as they travel, and they are often given free range around the area as the group moves, herded along as they go. A caravan’s supply of animals and livestock could range from as few as a half-dozen to as many as one hundred, depending on the size of the caravan. Historically, Halflings were responsible for the domestication of several animal species native to the floodplain, and the first tamed sheep, camels, and goats of the Nomadi were gifted to them by the Halflings. Due to their widespread travel, Halflings often have beasts in tow not normally seen in Rekkar-Sarrat. Cattle, sheep, dogs, and even more exotic creatures such as hyenas, antelope, and zebras can all be seen with a caravan. Some of the most successful bands even travel certain areas with elephants and rhinoceroses. Due to their close bond with animals and beasts, many Halflings refrain from eating meat, and bury their beasts as they would one of their own. They usually still partake of the animals in other ways, utilizing milk and eggs as well as shorn fur and the like.
Halflings do not have an organized religion in a traditional sense; they do not have temples or an ecumenical hierarchy, nor do they have many divine rules or codes. They do, however, revere a pair of deities. Solcara is the goddess of oases, which Halflings revere as sacred sites as they serve as the points of nourishment and rejuvenation in the wastes that punctuate their travels. Halflings honor Solcara each time they stop to rest at an oasis or other watering hole, leaving an offering of food in reverence. Sometimes they erect small shrines at the oases they visit as well so others may pay respects when they come across the oases as well. Generally, food left at the shrines is available to those in need, but it is regarded not only inconsiderate, but offensive and unlucky to take food from a shrine of Solcara when not in need of it.
Along with Solcara, Halflings also pay heed to Hokar, said to be Solcara’s consort. Hokar is a god of wind in relation to wanderlust and travel. The desert lands have known many deities of wind, but Hokar’s domain is the gentle breeze that cools the skin and blows good fortune. Some Halfling caravans have a cart or wagon that holds a small portable shrine to Hokar to bestow his blessings on the group.
Halflings revere nature as a whole as well, as does any group who chooses a nomadic lifestyle. They respect the land and its inhabitants, particularly animals, but otherwise do not have a true faith or religion based in it.
The Halfling language, referred to as simply ‘Halfling’ by outsiders, is called Lykani, which means ‘Windspeech.’ A smooth, brisk language, it is partially based on a form of the Auran language, having developed out of a primeval tongue and that of the beings of wind. The Halflings of present times cannot truly trace the creation of Lykani, but postulations often arise in iterations of their cultural lore, in which Janni and other such wind-folk were the true original inhabitants of the region, long before the Halflings themselves, the Nomadi, or the Shuka. Regardless, it is a unique language in its own right, reminiscent of yet removed from Auran itself. Lykani and Nomadi share a number of loanwords, attesting to the close bond of kinship between the Halflings and the Nomadi.