Table of Contents
Halflings, or hositan in their own speech, are a dying race, rendered almost extinct when the Lords of Sin conquered their shires and hames, expunging centuries of culture and tradition in days. The survivors are a greatly diminished people, their natural inclinations driving them towards reticence and passivity that grows more exaggerated with each passing year.
Humans and dwarves are prone to saying that all hositan look the same, which can almost be considered true of the elder population -- swaddled in shapeless and drab clothing, worry tinging each syllable, unadorned by necklace or ring or smile -- desperate habits instilled in them from birth by parents haunted by memories of the occupation. In the liberated kingdoms, hositan are beginning to reclaim their ancestral virtues, albeit slowly and falteringly, for few still live that have any personal experience of those bygone traditions.
A halfling typically has the warm skin tone of the southern Orlanders, or the deeper flush of their northern cousins. Most in the liberated kingdoms will never cut their hair, binding the curls into a dastar or dulband-cloth, but only those who live in perpetual hiding from the dark folk in the occupied realms do not shun this custom, since it immediately identifies them as hositan and not a human child. Indeed, shaving the head is commonplace in those occupied lands, among men and women both, as it also serves to protect against lice and other such vermin.
Halflings are perhaps as close to a pacifist people as can exist, doing their utmost to avoid armed conflict and even settling the fiercest of disputes with words and sanctions. Even hositan find their courts to be nightmarish, their procedures of such convolution and intricacy that coming to an agreement outside of them is a priority regardless of personal hostility. As such, the offices of sheriff and marshal in halfling communities are very nearly honorary, often stereotyped as the go-to profession for the lazy or indolent hositan.
Size. Halflings on average are about 4 feet tall and weigh around 60 to 70 pounds. Females are slightly smaller and lighter than males. Your size is small.
Names. Common halfling names are detailed here.
Varieties. Three varieties or subraces exist: proudfellows, stalwarts, and hairfoots. Choose one of these subraces.
Life is truly very simple. Look over there, the ground by that tree. That, my friend, is spoor. It reeks, stains and it is out in the open. Now, this about my waist is called a sporran. It is scented, clean and keeps things hidden. As long as you can tell the difference between spoor and sporran, you will do just fine in life.
-- Hositan "advice" often given to youngsters.
The rarest of the hositan, Proudfellows are widely thought to be descended from ancient fey or elves, their pale skin and fair hair setting them apart from the rest of their kind, who tend towards darker features. Proudfellows are extremely conservative at heart and resistant to change, which has led to their suffering the greatest losses of all halflings. They reacted with courageous valor when the armies of the dark folk poured into their lands, taking up arms and refusing to surrender or flee like the majority of their people. For all their skill in the hunt, the sad truth remains that no hositan was meant to see a battlefield, and the Proudfellows were nearly wiped out in the first few engagements.
A nomadic folk, Proudfellows began long ago to train the emishika, better known as Kebito's Elk, using the immense creatures first in place of oxen. Eventually the folk used them in place of horses, riding two abreast and four deep when they hunted through the forests. Regaining mastery of emishika, a talent lost during the dark days after the war with the Lords of Sin, is a secret hope of many a Proudfellow.
Size. Proudfellows on average are about 4'2" to 4'5" and weigh around 60 to 70 pounds. Females are slightly smaller and lighter than males. Your size is small.
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Darkvision. Perhaps from some trace of fey blood in your lineage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Proudfellow Weapons Training. Your people are hunters. You have proficiency with blow guns, nets, and shortbows.
A mermaid I did see one day, a-swimming in the stream. When down upon the bank she lay, my eyes-oh they did gleam. Her pearls she shone in noontime sun, I gripped my oaken rod. So near I crept then cast my line, as though it were a wish. Her treasures hauled up from the brine, I had my fill of fish.
-- First verse of the traditional folksong "Truth be told"
Stalwarts are builders, innovators, and gnome-friends, and are viewed by other halflings as quite bizarre for precisely those reasons. Much like the gnomes with whom they've associated for centuries, the Stalwarts tend to cultivate patterned whiskers and hairstyles, experiment freely with accessories and dyes, and even wear actual shoes! Swift to adapt to other cultures, these halflings frequently work tirelessly to integrate into and modify whatever community they inhabit. They are often dismissed as busybodies and dreamers by the other races of the community.
Given that most halflings never learn how to swim, the Stalwarts separate themselves still further by actually enjoying the activity and seeking out coastal areas or those with ready access to waterways for exploring. The "village" of Merrowsfloe is famous (infamous among hositan) for consisting entirely of boats and rafts that drift the Lonely Sea, coming to shore only when major repairs are needed. An increasing number of these vessels are being fashioned from corals, whale bones, and similar materials, further reducing the frequency of visits to shore.
Details. Stalwarts are equivalent to Stouts in the Players Handbook.
No rational hositan would be caught dead in something quite so ridiculous. Even an elf would hesitate to invite mockery by wearing that travesty. I cannot begin to understand the lunacy involved in, firstly making such a monstrosity, and then actually putting it on display in a window.
-- Hositan criticism of a traditional harvest festival gown design salvaged from Rowanspeak Hillock
Ask someone to describe a halfling and they will invariably speak of the Hairfoots (or is it Hairfeet?), for they are by far the most common and widespread of hositan. Though they are naturally inclined to cheerfulness and camaraderie, in the dark times they are more often sad, for a Hairfoot is constantly reminded of how much their people has lost, for even in their own villages there is little that is truly hositan and not merely adopted or adapted from another race. As they are not fond of anything remotely resembling an adventure, they often hire people to explore the ruined shires of their ancestors in search of relics from their past. Hairfoot elders are most keen to unearth their past, many hoping that doing so will help to avert further disaster.
In the old, better times, a Hairfoot was brought up to be polite, respectful and hard-working, honest to a fault, generous to the less fortunate, and stern with the unjust. Parents in the dark times still try to teach these traits to their children, but the necessities of life often causes Hairfoots to have to betray their principles, though they do so reluctantly. In general, a halfling is a fine fellow all round and welcome in any community, albeit with a few sniggers and condescending comments from the existing inhabitants, who seem to find them inexplicably amusing, because of their size and "odd customs."
Details. Hairfoots are equivalent to Lightfoots in the Players Handbook.
Hositan are highly conservative, rural folk with a dislike for the hectic and rowdy bustling of urban environments - which in no way prevents them from being equally hectic, rowdy, and busy amongst themselves. A hositan always wants to be doing something that can be shown off to their peers, provided said activity is in no way strenuous or dangerous. Growing oversized vegetables, hononbon pruning, riddling, and whittling are especially popular hobbies, with long and convoluted histories of excellence and rivalry that the Stalwarts and Hairfoots delight in rehashing.
Proudfellows are extremely conservative, both religiously and socially, at heart and resistant to change, which has led to their suffering the greatest losses of all halflings. They reacted with courageous valor when the armies of the dark folk poured into their lands, taking up arms and refusing to surrender or flee like the majority of their people. For all their skill in the hunt, the sad truth remains that no hositan was meant to see a battlefield, and the Proudfellows were nearly wiped out in the first few engagements. What few Proudfellows remain have forgotten the meaning behind their rituals and are abandoning more of them with each new generation.
Proudfellows, lacking much in the way of agricultural disposition, instead chose to become masters of animal husbandry. Long ago the Proudfellows began to train the emishika, better known as Kebito's Elk, using the immense creatures first in place of oxen. Their nomadism and semi-domestication of the emishika gave them unparalleled mobility right up until the coming of the Seven, spreading their numbers further and into more hostile environments than their less venturesome kin. Regaining mastery of emishika, a talent lost during the dark days after the war with the Lords of Sin, is a secret hope of many a Proudfellow.
Today, of course, there is significantly less variety among the halflings. What few Proudfellows remain have forgotten the meaning behind their rituals and are abandoning more of them with each new generation. The Stalwarts dress in drab and shapeless cloths that are a far cry from the elaborately dyed brilliances of their past, as well as often shaving their heads - once one of the greatest taboos of their people - or no longer wearing the dastar to keep their hair in place. The unfortunate Hairfoots, whilst still the most populous of hositan, are effectively no more than reflections of whatever racial settlement they inhabit, even the simplest parts of their former culture withering rapidly.
Outside of Westdelving, that last bastion of the ancient halflings, only the art of riddling remains alive. It has been noted by scholars of other races that the halflings seem to have replaced wars of weapons with wars of words. Champions of wit clash over a tabletop, duels between entire families resolved by the keenness of intellect and not blade. Disgraceful conduct in a challenge of riddles has been compared to cowardice on the battlefield, with the dishonorable cur publicly shunned and condemned.
To those who remember the old ways, there is often a chilling sight in the innocent games and rhymes of children. What to a child is nothing more than a quick game of hollyhockers is the memory of a wizened haruspex hunched over entrails and casting the bone rods. What to a child is nothing more than a fun singsong is the memory of maneivocans and vespernuntis keeping the flow of time unhindered.
And thus were the first Rites of Endsweek enacted, and Bunga did smile upon his faithful children. And these most blessed of the hositan did feast, upon the lambs, and the calves, and the fatted swine, and the carp, and the salmon, and the fruits of the gardens of the king, and the marrows that grew also therein, and the eggs of lark, and of hen, and of duck, and of goose // So thence did Bunga, most merciful, grant relief from indigestion to the faithful.
-- Hymns to Bunga, 2:15-18 / 3:28 (intervening verses redacted)
Halflings revere the deity Bunga Proudfoot, one of the most active of the greater gods despite being no less bound than his fellows by the Pact Primordial, limiting his direct involvement on the Material Plane. Instead of entering the world fully, Bunga chooses to send only the least reflection of his whole being -- not even so much as an aspect, much less an avatar of himself -- that attaches to a hositan soul and provides inspiration. This spiritual reflection is sometimes esoterically referred to as preranya. It is widely believed that Carl Paladin Merribuck, one of the most famous of Halfling heroes, was one such recipient, either directly or through the advice and support of his beloved.
Halflings venerate Bunga Proudfoot mainly through personal prayers, church services twice a week, and lavish pastoral festivals that could probably feed most of Eruna. Their priests are highly respected for their wisdom and compassion, both key features that are required to advance through the diocesan hierarchy. In the absence of secular sheriffs, it is a priest of Bunga who is charged with confronting a lawbreaker, to remind them what they stand to lose if they continue down that path, and to offer redemption.
Bunga Proudfoot teaches that humility for its own sake is as dishonest as unwarranted pride, advising that a true hositan should acknowledge their actions for what they are and not dismiss the praise of others - or, as being mortal is to be prone to error, to take both responsibility for their mistakes and the criticism of those who censure them. Above all, hositan should aim to make life pleasant for themselves and for others, to find that which is most enjoyable to them and learn to excel at it.
For all these apparent idyllic qualities, hositan religion hides a disturbingly dark heart. For many centuries, the Hairfoots ostracized their cousins as heretics and blasphemers, condemning the Stalwarts for their long association with gnomes and the Proudfellows as animalistic brutes no better than the dark folk. For their part, the Stalwarts began to see their kin, especially the ultra-conservative Proudfellows, as too narrow-minded to advance with the rest of the world. It is thought that the gradual abandoning of the land by the Merrowsfloe Stalwarts began at this time.
The schisms led first to excommunications, then mass banishments as each halfling settlement strove to drive out those who disagreed with the majority interpretation of the faith. The full shameful extent of the atrocities they visited upon themselves are a secret closely guarded by the priesthood, who only reveal the truth to the most promising acolytes and then only when they are about to take the most sacred of oaths, swearing to give up their lives if need be to safeguard the peace and well-being of all halflings.
A shire is constructed mostly underground with individual homes burrowed into the sides of tors and hillocks. To the casual passerby all that will be visible is a well-tended flower garden and letterbox. The overall motif is circular or oval chambers and doors, providing considerable buttressing against the weight of the soil above, with anywhere between seven and fifteen rooms each on up to four levels. This is a cultural holdover from the Five Clans Period, deemed useful enough to retain even when the halflings no longer needed to house their entire extended family in a single home.
A complex system of flues maintains fresh air and variable temperatures throughout, such that one could pass from a warm hallway into a chill pantry with but a single step. For any of the bedrooms to lack a fireplace, or for a kitchen to lack at least two ovens, was considered a sign of poverty or negligence for many years. The plumbing was of similar brilliance, allowing the luxury of warmed water on command, even if a blizzard was raging outside.
It is worth noting that not even the most conservative of Stalwarts or Hairfoots would actually call their settlement a shire in these times, for that is a title now reserved solely for Westdelving. The design of a true shire remains common knowledge even among the new generations, but so much of it has been modified or outright replaced by the styles and techniques of other races, particularly the dwarves, that only a semblance of the original remains.
One of the few shire structures invariably located on the surface is the Marshalskeep, serving as both the local court of law and the offices of the sheriffs. The sheriffs report to the marshal, who is responsible for keeping in contact with other shires and with any nearby settlements of other races. In part due to the potential for having to entertain important guests of larger size than the average halfling, the Marshalskeep is traditionally built to human or elven proportions, which also ostensibly serves to remind its occupants that they are but a small part of a much greater world.
Hames were almost entirely above ground and could only barely be described as actual settlements, being fashioned from the ivies and roots of great trees using the fey art of rizaphxan. Each hame was shared between several Proudfellow tribes, though only rarely at the same time, with one group arriving scarcely a day after the previous had departed. Despite the relative lack of contact between tribes, word spread quickly if a hame was ill-treated or neglected by its occupants. As the punishment was being barred from any hame for a period of time, this was an incredibly rare problem.
As the years passed and the plants that formed the original aspects of a hame aged, replacements were cultivated with exquisite care by successive generations of halfling adepts. Unlike the relatively static shires, hames would flow with the passage of time, forever changing as one tree fell that another might sprout instead. The Proudfellows wove tapestries of the living canopy, tacitly acknowledging that their very impermanence made the hame all the more beautiful.
It was impossible to stumble across a hame by accident, for each was surrounded by great totems adorned with emishika antlers and engraved with warnings both ancient and new against trespass. In the absence of more usual facilities, it became common to add levels or trophies to these totems as a means of marking some great success, or even just as a tithe of sorts to Bunga, despite the best efforts of the priesthood to halt this troubling unorthodoxy and reclaim the focus of worship from the inanimate structures.
One of the most peculiar traditions that arose out of the erection of totems was the increasing veneration shown to them, especially before significant events such as marriage or birth, praying for the guidance of the ancestors who also lived and died in their shadow. It is whispered that the oldest of these yet stand, defying the raging of the dark folk, beacons from which spectral sentinels still watch over the lands and the wrathful baying of vengeful ghosts can be heard.
Halflings have long been disapproving of the relative parity between sexes shown by many of the other races, holding to the argument that whilst there may be no legal difference, there are enough physical and mental ones to justify the continued separation of functions within a community. Even among the Stalwarts, who are by far the most innovative of halflings, there has been little effort to change this oldest aspect of their societies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is in the occupied lands where this disparity is dying out most rapidly.
Men are expected to work in the fields or woods, learn a craft, or otherwise develop a useful skill for the community. It is they who are held responsible for maintaining the flow of foodstuffs, building materials, and trading items. Before the conquest of their shires, hositan men could make their own way in life, but these days there is enormous pressure for them to learn from their fathers and maintain a family business. Halfling men who do not work with their hands are typically traders or clergy, with indolence a luxury permitted only to the aged.
Women are expected to maintain the family home and provide appropriate education to the children. When it becomes necessary to do so, it is they who dig out new chambers, repair the plumbing or ventilation, and direct the menfolk to produce the furnishings. They have an iron grip on medicine, maintaining a complicated internal hierarchy separate to that of the wider community, with specialist surgeons and midwives believed to rank most highly. It is also women who regulate marriage, although only the Proudfellows have forgone the system of arrangements and dowries that still plagues their cousins.
It has long been noted that whilst hositan men derive great amusement from seeing the women of other races try to perform what are traditionally male activities, the opposite is true for hositan women, who take umbrage at the mere notion. Indeed, they have been known to become outright savage when a man of any race tries to help them with a task. Many an unfortunate human or elven guest has been beaten about the knees for daring to try washing a plate or offering cooking advice.
Whether male or female, hositan who have left their homes to become adventurers or wanderers are rarely treated as fellow halflings upon their return. Instead, they are viewed as something akin to employable lunatics and given a huge amount of leeway in what they are permitted, since they are evidently too broken to be taught how to be a proper hositan, but must still be granted by the community the benefits of being a member.
The only hositan establishments which allow equal access to men and women are the priesthood of Bunga and the offices of the Marshalskeep, although the latter does bear something of a stigma as an escape clause for lazy halflings averse to learning even the most basic of occupations. There does remain some numerical bias of course, with men historically comprising the majority of marshals and sheriffs, possibly because women bear responsibility for many of the things halflings enjoy the most and therefore are intrinsically inclined towards working for them.
Beyond these strictures, however, there is little in the way of discrimination when it comes to who can do what. Men and women both are permitted and encouraged to take up art or riddling or any number of recreational activities that can bring the community together-- ideally over several massive tables groaning under the weight of a light meal.
Ashara (Dark Folk): When you see one, be swift and be silent. When one sees you, be swifter and be loud. Remember the ancient cry and sing it out often. If you should be felled, do not let your kin be caught unawares.
Although nobody has ever been particularly fond of the Dark Folk, hositan experiences with them have been even less positive. Troll games of Kick the Halfling, Punch the Halfling and Throw the Halfling are often cited as one reason, along with the orcish habit of using them as slaves when goblins are at a premium. Their lack of appreciation for fine cuisine or anything approaching manners, good or bad, are further points against them.
Dalsni (Humans): Most are clumsy and ignorant buffoons as apt to go to church as they are to go to war. Only the farmers have anything approaching wisdom, honestly, but only if they listen to our advice.
Humans are a strange lot as far as the hositan are concerned, so much more varied and confusing than the hositan themselves. Conventional wisdom says that so long as they are not aggravated, they are relatively harmless, which just leaves the question of what exactly will aggravate any given human. Halflings remain divided as to how much they should avoid contact with humans even or especially when living alongside them.
Garzimal (Elves): A worthwhile bunch, if you can get past their condescension. Lovely artwork, lovely music, lovely food. Do not ask for advice though, as they will answer both yes and no. A bit frustrating, honestly.
If the supposed origins of the Proudfellows are not mere myth, then the elves and halflings have had a long history of considerable friendliness. That said, it is a rare elf these days who does not look upon the hositan as either childish or uneducated, or both, making modern relations a bit more strained than they may have been historically. However, the two races still get along far better with each other than they do with almost any others.
Hynaph (Centaurs): Pray to Bunga you encounter one of the pleasant kinds, the grazers, because the others will think nothing of having you as a snack. There is no finer worker though-- tireless, loyal and remarkably cheap.
Hairfoot and Stalwart farms make considerable use of centaurs, for the mighty creatures can work for longer and in harsher conditions than hositan ponies, albeit for a price. There have been an increasing number of incidents in the last few decades of centaurs claiming the relationship is akin to master and slave, but there has been no violence as yet and the halflings are making sure that it stays that way, no matter how much the centaurs grumble.
Shahum (Gnomes): Disturbing creatures. You could overlook the clothing, Bunga knows fashion is strange, but not the whiskers. Some of them could almost be attractive if they would only lose those ridiculous whiskers.
The Stalwarts have long associated with and even adopted the customs of gnomes, being the only halflings to do so and thus earning the distrust and ire of their cousins. There is simply too much that is bizarre and different about this race so otherwise similar to their own that makes most hositan quite uncomfortable around them. In the old days, any given region was apt to have a population of either hositan or gnomes, but almost never both at the same time. Now the rarity of gnomes means most halflings have never met them at all.
Tsakeer (Aarakocra): If you can persuade them to stop shedding feathers in high summer, then by all means, invite them to the festival. Otherwise they can just keep on enjoying themselves at the Marshalskeep.
Halflings may lack the interest in flight that elves and humans have, but they do acknowledge that it is a valuable tool to be wielded by the wise. Diplomatic overtures in ages past to the winged beings of the Great Peaks resulted in a strange alliance between the races, such that aarakocra and hositan emissaries regularly visit each other to stay informed on current events and warn of the movements of the dark folk. The Proudfellows maintain a similarly cordial relationship with local raptoran tribes.
Vallin (Dwarves): A fine people indeed, if a little too fond of drink and violence. True, they could stand to learn a thing or two from us about how to live underground, but they never seemed to be interested in efficiency.
Widely considered to be extravagant, ostentatious, wasteful, and a wide variety of other descriptions, the dwarves are nevertheless fondly thought of by the halflings, who appreciate the skill behind dwarven engineering, if not so much the execution. This is mainly because the hositan believe they have improved upon the techniques originally taught to them by the dwarves, hence the similarity in many architectural designs between the two races.
En ashemmeth laluri, en shemmeth laruri, en ushemmeth laruri. (All that we forever were, all that we forever are, all that we forever shall be.)
--Dying words of Shoshona, last chieftain of the Kabani tribe
Halflings were never a war-capable people, revolted by the spectacle during their time with the dwarves and shying away from quarrelsome humans and vengeful elves as they made their own way through the world. Petty individuals might sometimes take up club or axe against an enemy, join the local bandit camp, or go completely insane and become an adventurer, but hositan shires never had so much as an informal militia.
The consequence was a terrible defeat when the Lords of Sin turned their gaze upon them. Shire after shire fell with little resistance, the inhabitants enslaved and what little wealth they had plundered. The Hairfoots capitulated almost at once, knowing that it was futile to fight and not wishing to throw their lives away. That, if no other reason, explains why they remain the most common of the hositan today, as well as those with the least left of their own culture, having effectively exchanged it for survival.
The Stalwarts were taken just as much by surprise as their cousins, but were able to hold out for a short while longer, having adopted enough gnomish trickery and dwarven resilience to wage an effective guerrilla war from within their occupied territories. In response, the dark folk forged an alliance of convenience with the kobolds and troglodytes, calling them up from the Dark Deeps to hunt down the hositan rebels. Faced with enemies who knew how to move and fight in the same conditions, the Stalwart halflings were quickly brought to heel and submitted.
By contrast, the Proudfellows had been hunters and nomads for too long to accept surrender. The tribes gathered swiftly, mustering enough numbers to match those of the dark folk arrayed against them. Naturally, lacking in any true combat experience or strategic understanding, their efforts resulted in a slaughter. Attempting to treat the armies of the dark folk as little more than especially dangerous animals to be hunted meant the Proudfellows blundered into every trap, every decoy, every feint. Only those who managed to flee or those that had not fought due to age or infirmity survived the invasion.
The grim necessities of the Dark Conquest have forced the halflings to reconsider their old position. In what was desperately encouraged to be seen as something to celebrate, Westdelving officially greeted the first true hositan army, a pitiable triad of pikers and archers. Mustering all the optimism they have left, the halflings try to point out that this is but the beginning of a new age for them, whilst ignoring the further loss of innocence and peace such a change brings to their people.
Shining fields of bright new green, down below the sunlit scene
Cold ending, birds nesting, white on white flowering
We see ponies on the roads again, hear the children laugh at play
And as the dusk falls, the herald calls, and the stars do spin anew
Watching over us all.
Dappled fields of brown and green, shadows dance across the scene
Wolves baying, crows circling, silver grey mustering
We see oxen strain under the lash, hear the children cry at play
And as the dawn breaks, the watcher aches, and the sun does rise anew
Watching over us all.
Rain the scene, no fields of green
Flames burning, meats searing
Smoke blocks sight, no children play
Dawn and dusk are all the same
None here to be seen.
Winter is early this year.
--"Spring Petals Fall", by an unknown survivor of the Siege of Rowanspeak Hillock
I humbly beseech your most enlightened grace for pardon; however, facts force me to conclude that these are not gnomes.
-- Earliest confirmed correction by Arch Truthsayer Salkyani, from barely a decade into her service as a lowly scribe
There is little recollection of the earliest days of the halflings. It is known that they existed by the time of The Battle of the Sarum, yet whether they had been placed into the world before Barlifandorf produced the gnomes, or before humans emerged from beasts, or perhaps even earlier still, is a matter of academic debate. Numerous theologians point out that it would be entirely in keeping with Bunga Proudfoot to secret his creations right under the noses of the high races and then giggle at nobody noticing them for several thousand years. An equal number have complained this interpretation portrays Bunga as a juvenile prankster, studiously ignoring that he is, in fact, just that.
c. 5000 ER -- Bunga creates the halflings. He unhelpfully refuses to say exactly when.
6456 ER - - The dwarves of Liferock cleanse their territory of a goblin infestation. They take in a large number of hositan held captive, intending only to heal them up and send them on their way, but grow too attached to the cheerful little creatures to release them back into the wild. The hositan are kept as something akin to pets, albeit remarkably intelligent ones.
6550-7210 ER -- Halfling numbers increase exponentially to match their popularity in the dwarfholds. They are discovered to be capable of simple tasks and often put to work as a type of household servant. Unsubstantiated gossip of hositan able to read, write or even speak language begins to spread.
7346 ER -- An elven dignitary visiting Liferock is as shocked as the hosts to hear a detailed and polite explanation of why nectar from the silver mossflower is superior to that harvested from the golden mossflower, provided it has been cultivated on a clay-rich soil, hence the unusually rich taste to that particular vintage. Aldo the Quick, the hositan server responsible for this speech, is immediately subjected to intense questioning, upon which it is discovered that the halflings have been developing their own sub-culture within that of the dwarves for centuries.
7796 ER -- Liferock watches with pride as its hositan formally establish the Western Delvings as an independent nation. Many of the older inhabitants gleefully complain that this was not how things were done in their day, especially not the disgraceful excuse for architecture employed by their former vassals.
8430 ER -- Ballin the Stalwart leaves his shire to learn the grand secrets of high alchemy from the gnomes. He returns with a recipe for mead that is grudgingly acknowledged as superior to that of the dwarves, but the resultant scandal causes the first true rifts in hositan society. This is also notable as one of the earliest confirmed breaches in gnomish isolationism.
9266 ER -- Stories of wild hositan and degenerate shires in the surrounding regions become common enough to elicit an investigation by the scholars of Wawmar. They confirm the reports and provide the first documentation of a hame. Whether or not these early Proudfellow halflings had mastered the emishika yet is unknown.
9341 ER -- The Stalwarts are acknowledged as an emergent culture, establishing new shires closer to gnome lands and the coastlines. They do not have much luck in persuading the gnomes to treat with more than a few individuals each generation.
9776 ER -- Horrified by the recent battles between Stor-gris and the elves and dwarves, the last halflings abandon their ancient homes among the dwarfholds, unable to bear witness to more slaughter and hatred. The surrounding shires continue to send aid supplies to Wawmar for many years out of respect for the shared history of their peoples.
c. 9950 ER -- The gnomes end their isolation and the hositan begin theirs, hiding away from both the larger and the dark folk in equal measure. Powerful spells of concealing and deception begin to swaddle the hames, with only a few ancient elves remembering how to counter the fey sorceries. The Stalwarts are the only halflings seen with any regularity for many centuries, but are increasingly mistaken for a slightly-more-unusual group of gnomes.
243 FR -- The first of many accords is struck between hositan and aarakockra. There is little in the way of trade, but plenty of communication between the races.
1552 FR -- Forewarned by their avian allies, the hositan of the Westdelving hide from an approaching horde of trolls and ogres. Their preparations are dismissed by the dwarves of Mithhaud, who suffer a crushing defeat. In an uncharacteristically aggressive move, the hositan send diseased meat among the dark army, causing an outbreak of plague that causes the withdrawal of the force and saving what is left of the dwarfhold.
2285 FR -- Beginning of the Five Clans Period. The Ballussia, Fansima, Mariun, Timoran and Veshir families extend their influence across all hositan society, with lesser families forced to affiliate primarily with one of these five.
2294 FR -- The Timorans, of the Stalwart hositan, are judged guilty of arch heresy and blaspheming against Bunga Proudfoot by the Hairfoot Ballussia and Veshir families. Wisely, the heads of the family disappear into hiding and avoid the trials that follow.
2295 FR -- Aeslin Mariun, the Iron Lady, mysteriously commits suicide with an emishika antler. The Proudfellow Fansima are incensed by the use of an antler in such a fashion and claim conspiracy.
2297 FR -- The alliance between the Ballussia and Veshir ends when the Fansima unearth proof that Salmund Veshir murdered Aeslin Mariun, with an emishika antler gifted to the Ballussia some years earlier. Salmund attempts to go into hiding but is caught and executed without trial.
2298 FR -- The Fansima are discovered to have falsified the evidence against Salmund Veshir and are themselves declared heretics by the Ballussia family. In response, the Fansima reveal that the Mariuns were targeted because they were helping the fugitive Timorans as fellow Stalwarts.
2300 FR -- Brutal purges follow as the hositan rise up in righteous fury against the enemies of their faith. Every shire and hame becomes infected with paranoia and fear. The priesthood of Bunga lead the way in seeking out heresy and punishing the transgressors.
2301 FR -- Internal dissent within the Proudfellows causes support for the Fansima to wither and die, forcing them to abandon their hopes of dominating their cousins. The Timorans manage to return to prominence as the power struggle continues.
2312 FR -- Exhaustion and despair halt the madness for a time. The Ballussia family struggles on alone under the guidance of Konrad Ballussia, before a united effort by the Mariuns and Veshirs finally brings an end to their ambition.
2319 FR -- The political deadlock between the remaining families ends when the Fansima discover an imprisoned verdant prince of the fey, Lord Halion Sarshayin, and bind him to their service, swiftly returning to and then exceeding their old glory.
2320 FR -- With the Fansima threat growing, the Ballussias are able to claw back a small modicum of power and assemble a resistance in the eastern shires. Most of the Proudfellow hames in these lands are degraded and abandoned under the pressure of the emergent family.
2331 FR -- Aeren Kabani, trusted councilor to the heads of the Fansima family, murders them and takes over in a bloody coup, absorbing the tribe into his own. He immediately frees Lord Sarshayin, declares religious amnesty and makes overtures of peace to the other families. The verdant prince, driven close to madness by his twin periods of imprisonment and slavery, pledges his life to the Kabani and teaches them how to truly master the art of rizaphxan.
2333 FR -- Having been unable to prove further deceit on behalf of the Kabani, the Mariuns and Timorans merge to face the Ballussias and Veshir, but find this was foreseen by Konrad Ballussia and their efforts swiftly relegated to futile acts of defiance.
2338 FR -- A decade of machinations by Konrad Ballussia finally pays off as the Veshir family secedes from the political battlefield, leaving him master of the most influential Hairfoot family and dominant over the Stalwarts and Proudfellows both, since the Kabani offered him no resistance.
2342 FR -- Konrad Ballussia is found dead, forming the main body of a makeshift Proudfellow totem, with the remains of his aides and councilors decorating it further. Aeren Kabani sends messengers to each shire, informing them that he was tired of clearing up the mess of his forerunners and any further attempt to prolong the atrocities of the Five Families would be punished. He is declared a heretic and traitor immediately.
2343 FR -- Disguised as Aeren Kabani, Lord Sarshayin is apprehended by the priesthood of Bunga, brought to trial and summarily executed at Westdelving. At the moment of his death, the real Aeren Kabani revealed the deception and declared that retribution was now due to all hositan for what had been allowed to happen. A plague fell upon the crops and herds of the hositan at once, such that the most terrible of all punishments was inflicted upon these folk.
2345 FR -- The end of the Five Clans Period. With all of the original great families reduced to cautionary tales of hubris and Aeren Kabani relinquishing all the power of his tribe, the dying curse of Lord Sarshayin was lifted and the hositan were able to eat more than once a day again. Aeren Kabani has since been considered inspired by Bunga, albeit a dread and wrathful inspiration from a god offended by the evils committed in his name.
3784 FR -- Centaurs become the most prized servitor on Hairfoot farms, not least because a herd of sufficient size acts as an excellent deterrent against the dark folk. A distressingly large number of shires are further disguised by this highly visible presence, somehow convincing many who stumble across them that the farmland belongs to the traditionally nomadic centaurs.
7231 FR -- An adventurous halfling calling himself the Valiant Paladin leaves his shire of Blornswood against all common sense and good advice. Although his first journey is a brief one, it reveals again the existence of the hositan to the wider world.
7238 FR -- The Valiant Paladin, more commonly known as Carl Merribuck, settles in Westdelving to pursue the more appropriate vocation of pumpkin-growing.
7239 FR -- Unable to grow pumpkins or any other vegetable, Carl Merribuck becomes a sheriff of Westdelving and volunteers for every traveling job required by the Marshalskeep.
7249 FR -- In an understated act of acknowledgement for his deeds, Westdelving commissions the creation of the dirk Stealthheart, gifting the magnificent blade to Carl Merribuck on the tenth anniversary of his appointment as sheriff.
7310 FR -- Facing pressure from the north, coupled with poor fishing conditions, a small Stalwart port on the Lonely Sea begins its slow change from insignificant coastal village to the famed Merrowsfloe.
7324 FR -- The Kabani tribe venture into Eruna for the first time in recorded history. They are immediately driven back by the indigenous populations, but several smaller Proudfellow tribes make quieter migrations to the continent thereafter, hoping to avoid notice. They disappear without a trace, which arguably suggests they were successful.
c. 7790 FR -- Increasing numbers of dark folk are spotted throughout the Wintervale and its adjoining lands, causing increasing worry among the eastern shires. Local Proudfellow tribes agree to keep a close eye on the developments, but nothing is heard from them, as they were the first to be destroyed by the invasion.
7792 FR -- Merrowsfloe sets sail for the open ocean and is not seen again in the Lonely Sea for another forty years.
7797 FR -- The Siege of Rowanspeak Hillock and the attempted theft of Stealthheart by a changeling in the service to the Dweller in the Vale. Shoshona Kabani leads the last of the Proudfellows still able to fight in a vain charge against the entrenched dark folk, with the loss of all lives.
c. 7800 FR -- Only a few shires and hames remain populated by free halflings. The Hairfoots retain a small measure of security by accepting slavery, whilst the Stalwarts face threats from below as kobolds and troglodytes are called up to crush their rebellions. The Proudfellows are believed virtually extinct.
8153 FR -- Crude ships are seen crossing the Gulf of Gor into Farland, crewed by halflings of a most peculiar aspect and accent, reminiscent of the Proudfellows of old.
Known Shires and Hames
Ballundell (destroyed): Hidden in the valleys south of Selble and Fort Sont, on the border of Kale proper and Belendale from which it took its name, this shire only fell when the Dweller called upon the foul beasts that lurk beneath the earth to seek them out. Unhindered by the surface world, kobolds and troglodytes and worse hunted hositan in all directions, even into Eruna and the Wild Lands.
Elksmoot: Encompassing the Elk Forest and stretching up to the source of the Elksroar, this hame of Kelerak is by far the largest and most important to the Proudfellows. Legend says that it was here their people were born and that the last of them will fall in service to Bunga at the end of all things. It was held so sacred that it was believed genuine trespass would receive immediate divine punishment, so its border totems bore unique messages of welcome instead of warning. Technically the Elksmoot still exists and is merely unoccupied, but few Proudfellows today believe reclaiming it is possible.
Flowers-of-Bone (destroyed): A hame shared principally by the Zelmyra, Arzrun, and Jarmayet tribes, grown on the shores of Zeland's Ghost Lake. Popular target for aspiring necromancers with little imagination or understanding of their craft, most of whom ended up incorporated into the warning totems, ironically drawing yet more of their ilk. Betula of the Asphodels, a corrupted treant with toxic sap and poison blooms, makes her home within, tending to dread fields of pain and sorrow.
Merrowsfloe: Neither shire nor hame, the floating village of the Stalwarts drifts the Lonely Sea according to no law or reason. Its inhabitants have their own language, a curious blending of hositan and aquan dialects, though they do still recall the speech of the land. Unsubstantiated rumors of free trade with sahuagin, merrows, ixitxachitl, and other such unpleasant creatures have long been propagated, but these seafarers seem not to care about the implicit insult.
Murhaigen's Peace (destroyed): Whoever Murhaigen was, he or she left a lasting impression as a brute of unceasing violence and savagery. Their supposed resting place was marked by a temple of Bunga ostensibly dedicated to keeping them dead, around which a small but active shire grew in later years. It was located a few miles north of Lanburg in Daven, atop the Maerrajin Plateau. Archaeolinguists point to the names of both shire and plateau being derivations of an earlier one.
Rowanspeak Hillock (destroyed): Located south of Kel Forest, near Ekruup in Zeland. Besieged by the Lord of Sloth in the autumn of 7797, it held out long enough to see the rest of Zeland fall before being overrun seven months later. Once the largest and most prosperous shire of the region, word of its destruction crippled morale, such that even the Stalwarts did not mount a resistance. The copse of rowans that gave the shire its name was occupied by a cabal of dryads and nymphs in days long gone, but unnumbered years of fey sorcery have left a potent tool there for those who dare evoke it.
Thunderhead Glen (destroyed): A hame grown within Farland's Old Wood, so named for the monstrous bulette that once terrorized the region. It was principally occupied by the Fansima, Elniben, and Kabani tribes prior to the Five Clans Period, after which the Kabani absorbed the lesser Proudfellows. Even today, the city of Ladona remembers the Passing of the Rafts, when the Kabani sailed down the Old Wash and straight through the city on their way to Eruna.
Westdelving: Oft called the Trueshire, last of the unblemished shires and indeed the oldest of them all, hidden in the Forest of Blorn northeast of Or City. It is the home and resting place of Carl "Paladin"Merribuck, sheriff and hero, wielder of Stealthheart. The ruin of the dwarfhold of Mithhaud lies beneath the mountains to the east, silent grave to fallen dwarfs. How exactly Westdelving survived the attentions of the Dweller, when shires farther west and more heavily defended fell, is unknown.
Yrjune (destroyed): Located in the Vanian Hills of southeastern Kale. A Stalwart shire self-quarantined to treat the gnome refugees suffering from the Whitespot. Cultural intermingling between the races led to its becoming a hositan byword for decadence and depravity, a direct consequence, so the priests warned, of the evils of miscegenation. Brutal deeds were enacted against it for centuries, such that the Dweller's armies may well have done them a mercy at their end.
Dastar: Hairfoots and Stalwarts traditionally never cut their hair, making its combing and washing a familial or even communal affair, then binding the great locks into tight bands of cloth. The dastar is usually formed of two pieces, one at least seven feet in length and the other upwards of twenty, wrapped around the head several times, but there are plenty of variations across shires. A dastar is usually shades of yellow for young boys, or green for young girls, which then is replaced by white and blue cloth during adulthood for men and women.
Dulband-cloth: A regional variation of the dastar that originated in Kale. A true dulband-cloth should be black, plain, and skintight, such that no hair can be seen. After the Comte du Nyon wore one to a state function, in a gesture of self-deprecation (he had gone bald as a child), its popularity exploded among the Kalish nobility. Today, the Kalish dull-band is named ironically, since they tend to be brightly dyed, decorated with beads or jewels, with intent to expose the well-coiffured forelocks of the wearer.
Emishika: Generally referred to as a dire elk, the emishika today are practically a separate species, having been domesticated and bred by the Proudfellows for enough generations for significant changes to take place. Relative to true dire elks, emishika are broader of shoulder and far less aggressive, identifiable to the knowledgeable by their more palmate antler structure and curious branched tines, particularly the trey and often even the brow. They grow upwards of seven feet at the shoulder with an antler-span that often approaches twelve feet.
Hononbon : A curious art form that is one of the few things hositan are willing to overlook was copied from gnomes, requiring as it does an exacting understanding of pruning techniques that will not kill the subject. Sometimes known as tree potting, it is the careful trimming and pruning of sapling trees such that their growth is stunted, ideally to such an extreme that they can be kept in a household pot on a windowsill. Especially visually attractive specimens of hononbon are often entered into competitions, encouraging youngsters to take up the art themselves, usually with the implicit statement that it will impress someone they are interested in.
Kebito's Elk: See Emishika. Kebito was a mytho-historic huntress supposedly accompanied by the ghost of her first kill, a primordial stag-god she named Durath. Variations of this myth appear even among the elves, who usually dismiss it as a delusion of memory of the time before speech, but even today, when a hunter is killed, it is said their prey was filled by the Might of Durath.
Maneivocan: A religious position in hositan society, roughly meaning "Caller of the Dawn." It is the function of the maneivocan to perform the rituals and prayers to Bunga to keep away ill fortune and evil spirits during the hours of greatest vulnerability, when all others are asleep. Once all is done and the shire has been safeguarded, they must awaken their fellows and call the faithful to prayer, traditionally from the rooftop of Bunga's temple. For this reason, most maneivocans are male, as their deeper voices carry further than those of women. It is regarded as an especially good omen if the rituals are completed exactly as the sun rises, regardless of the season.
Prerany: Inspiration from a divine source, if not specifically Bunga Proudfoot himself. Notable recipients of preranya include Carl Merribuck and Aeren Kabani, both of whom led the hositan into a new age of peace and prosperity. The word was once used in negative and oblique forms, indicating corruption from dark powers, or worse still, willing subjugation to their influence, but as superstition grew and the hositan feared naming such events would cause them, the words disappeared from the language and were replaced by euphemism and metaphor. Some elements in the priesthood actively seek out instances of the word in literature in order to expunge it.
Rizaphxan: A fey art that blends horticulture with sorcery, likely learned from the elves and crudely practiced by the Proudfellows until they were taught the mysteries by Lord Sarshayin, a verdant prince. Whilst a master of the art can exert their will and transform plant life about them, molding it into new shapes and forcing unnatural changes, this is widely considered a perversion to be stamped out. The true use of rizaphxan is to create beauty over years, decades or longer, using what practitioners call "persuasion"and not in any euphemistic sense. Singing and conversing to the plants encourages them to grow in ways that are beneficial to the practitioner without harming the plant, resulting in living and ever-changing villages of tree and bush.
Vespernunti: The analogue of the maneivocans, meaning "Herald of the Dusk". A vespernunti's duty is to fortify the wards of faith about a shire whilst the power of life and light is at its strongest, traditionally using a libation made by the most senior midwife. Indeed, the vast majority of vespernuntis have been midwives themselves, taught how to brew this secret potion in order to reduce the number of weak points in the rituals that could be exploited by dark forces. It is their duty to ensure the shire is adequately protected by the time the sun sets and to complete a full patrol of it during the course of their day in order to be certain that it is shielded on all sides.