I awoke in the night in a cold sweat, the fate of poor Lucinda playing on my mind. I opened my room’s window to let some air in. The night was deathly silent, not even the crickets were stirring in the nearby forest. A thick darkness lay over the grounds of the coaching house. I put it down to my weary mind playing tricks and fell back into a sound sleep.
In the morning I was buffeted by the sounds of a festival coming through my open window, which was peculiar considering the coaching house had been all but empty the previous night. I looked out the window and was greeted with the sight of several squat caravans inhabiting the grounds. They were decorated with rich patterns of bright colours. Are large group of painted aurochs were tethered in nearby.
Being brought up in a strict Whiteshore boarding school, I had never encountered halflings before, so the sight of several score of them zipping between tents and under the caravans filled me with great curiosity. I dressed quickly and joined my companions in the common room.
Bradley was yet to wake but Thorodr was up and had all of his belongings packed. He asked me if we were leaving straight away. I told him that I planned to stay here for a while to study the new arrivals. He reacted uncomfortably, stating that he had a great disdain for the small folk. He told me that if I was staying he was going to leave straight away and continue the journey alone. Frustrated, I told him that he was welcome to and he left right away, giving a wide berth to a halfling couple who entered the tavern.
The halflings were between three and four feet tall with thick, curly hair and bushy eyebrows. Their frames were slight and they moved with great surety and deftness. The male of the pair wore a shirt of mail made from silk with sewn in brass pennies. The female wore a multilayered and colourful dress. Both decorated their persons with coins from many different nations. They bartered with the tavern owner for some time; I noticed that they were of careful speech and quick wit. After they had finished their transaction I approached them and told them about my journal and asked cordially if they would be inclined to show me around their camp. They agreed and led me outside.
To begin with they showed me around the different vehicles of their caravan. Many were simple dwellings, small houses on wheels. They showed me a spectacular, three storied and heavily fortified moving fortress that the called the hall wagon. In this they held meetings, had feasts and kept the mainstay of the military force. Between the crenellations on the stone roof several blackpowder cannons jutted out, as well as eastern fire-spitters.
They led me onto a cart decorated with golden edges and silver patterns, giving the impression of a giant jewellery box on wheels. This was the coin-master’s cart, the coin-master being the leader of the caravan and guardian of the group’s wealth. At all times this cart was surrounded by the coin-guard, aurochs riding sharpshooters wearing silver coin-mail and helms with funnels over the ears made from the horns of their favourite beasts.
Finally there was the black coach, a cart made out of black and white striped stone in the shape of a mausoleum. Here the remains of dead members of the troupe were stored in shelves until Boneday, a festival where the halflings painted their ancestors bones in bright colours and wore them as costumes. This irreverence struck me, but it seemed to permeate everything they did. To the halflings, nothing was permanent. I asked them about their origins but none of them seemed to know. They had always been travelling from land to land, their minds only on the road they were on. Children did not belong to a particular couple, if there was such a thing as a halfling couple, but to the group as a whole. It was the same with wealth and possessions. Everything seemed to be up for trade.
They are a generous folk, quick to share anything from a joke to expensive wine. Problems stemmed from that though, as they seem to think others are as free with possessions as they are. Several of my belongings ended up being passed around until the coin-master stepped in. The coin-master and I spoke at length about halfling culture. He told me of the three different kinds of halfling, all similar in stature and lack of settlements, but very different in the approaches to travel. The kind I was currently studying were lowland halflings. Travellers of the roads and cities, following a migration plan set by the gods of chaos. They traded in clothes for the most part, being excellent tailors and shoemakers. He spoke also of the highland halflings, mountainous nomads that herded goats on steep cliffs and hired out their services as guides for adventurers. There were also the riverfolk halflings who travelled in floating towns and had a great love for anything magical.
The day wore on and it became too late to set off on our journey towards the capitol. I spoke with the coin-master and he agreed to let us travel with him as the troupe was heading in the same direction. He put me with and old halfling named Granny Pike. She was short and round and very weathered, much paler than the bronzed halfling youths. She tended to wear black robes decorated with grim patterns and was always being followed by a large, cloaked stranger that never seemed to speak. Despite her appearance, she was friendly and amiable and an excellent cook. She seemed to be the keeper of the Black Coach, her quarters unceremoniously bolted on to its roof. As the light failed Bradley, Benjamin and I crouched in her squat common room and drank fine mead made from northern mammoth bees, forgetting all worries and sleeping soundly.
Halfling Player Characters
Halflings are adventurous by nature and are often gravitate to the adventurer’s life. They tend towards archetypes that utilize their superior agility and dexterity, such as Rangers or Rogues. They tend to shy away from melee combat and so are rarely any of the fighting archetypes. Lowland Halflings favour the Ranger class, which enhances their ability to survive on the road. Riverfolk Halfling’s love of magic leads them to gravitate towards Arcanists, Bards and Wizards. Unlike other Halflings, there are a considerable number of Highland Halfling Barbarians, who act as mountain guides and map makers.
Lowland Halfling: Dextrous
Highland Halfling: Agile
Riverfolk Halfling: Intelligent
Small: Character gains a 10 bonus to Stealth Checks. Character counts Basic melee weapons as Two-Handed and Off-Handed melee weapons as Basic.