Seas of Madness
Halflings are sometimes referred to as the “heart of the empire,” for while most of us seek to earn glories and triumphs, it is the halflings and their obsessive drive to record and re-discover history that allows our achievements to be known by all. This drive is fueled primarily by the fact that the halflings don’t know their own history. Just over 300 years ago, the halfling race awoke to the rays of an unfamiliar sun, and found that they could not remember anything about their culture, history or place in the world. While the wisest among them have managed to keep order and prevent the entire race from slipping into anarchy and destruction – and have even forged a path that has brought them great prosperity – the gaping chasm in their collective soul remains.
Halflings are best known for their diminutive stature, standing at an average height of about 3 feet tall. Their limbs and head are proportionately as large as a human’s or elf’s, but their fingers and toes have an extra two joints in them (the first between what would be a human’s first and second knuckles, and another between what would be our second and third). Most halflings have a uniform, medium complexion and almond-shaped eyes, indicating that even before their collective amnesia they were a small community with a small variation of physical traits.
Halflings are an ordered and logical race, resulting from the necessity of imposing social order by fiat upon a blank slate, without any history or tradition to guide them. Halflings originally lived somewhere near the center of the Archipelago, though, to their dismay, their dedication to preserving the history of their people came some time shortly after they migrated to the seat of the Empire. Arriving via mass exodus in a veritable flotilla of barely-seaworthy barges, canoes, rafts and other temporary craft, the rulers of Port Amasa could hardly turn them away, but neither were they willing to simply accept an invasion of the diminutive beings without reservation.
I insert this small bit of history only because such limited welcome has come to define the way that they interact with the greater Empire: living on the edges of society, they are certainly subjects of the Emperor, but they relate to us almost as an autonomous collective within our own culture. Measured and reserved, Halflings are not prone to rash decision-making, carefully considering their options before undertaking any task of import – a fact best seen in their courting rituals. In their earliest days, Halflings did not consider the effects of in-breeding amongst their kind. It was only when malformed and stillborn children began to plague the new arrivals that they inquired of their hosts and discovered the reason for common taboos against intermarriage. Still lacking any kind of history, the Halflings began to study potential mates closely. In close study of their intended’s face, body, movements and instinctual mannerisms, Halflings were able to observe with rather surprising clarity family relations, and would call off the marriage. Such practices, while strictly unnecessary today, have taken on a wider context, and the observation of one’s prospective mate is seen as a common-sense practice that ensures a harmonious marriage.