The History of the Truefolk
Distant Days: Halfling Development Prior
to the Third Age
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Primitive bands of nomadic halflings living in tribes migrated
from the vast northern forests, spreading out across the steppes.
They followed herds of wild antelope living on the rich plains
and numbering in the millions. Some of the tribes began to domesticate
the wooly goats and sheep native to the region, using the wool
to make the felt covering their distinctive round tents as well
as utilizing the milk to make a variety of dietary staples.
The tribes were peaceful in nature, each group governed in most
cases by a matriarchal elder. However, the leaders were elected
by group consensus, enabling the tribe's chosen leader to be male
if that candidate was the one best suited for the task.
Surrounded by a bounty of game, and finding few adversaries able
to withstand the halflings' well-coordinated hunting techniques,
the people prospered and multiplied. They were loosely formed into
three extended familial groups, defined by their style of making
The Great Northern Steppes
A time of festivals, of competitions and of reunions,
as well as a time for discussions of a philosophical as well as a political
nature, the Trine was the fundamental groundwork upon which the governing
of the widespread halfling people was based.
Held roughly during a moon's cycle in the month of Lumnea,
each Trine had its 'Mother' and 'Father' figures, nominated in recognition
of their accomplishments exhibited via equestrian events and oral performances
of wit and wisdom. Valorous acts performed during the previous year that
were reported by the candidate's family or companions also weighed into
the equation. Finally, a Father and Mother were elected, and it is they
who had the final word in any controversy needing mediation.
These noble couples were elected roughly halfway through
the Trine, and occupied the honorary station from then until the next
year's election. It was not uncommon for a popular Father or Mother to
carry the mantle for a number of Trines, until he or she was bested by
a new, popular personality, or grew tired and voluntarily relinquished
the position. No man or woman could be forced to accept the responsibility
if they felt they had not the time or where-with-all to do an honorable
job of it. Although the year's Father and Mother were usually a hand-fasted
couple, it was not unknown for this not to be the case. In practice,
however, if they were not united, they were almost always from the same
extended family since it was usually necessary for them to facilitate
any number of issues during the year, dealing with tribal law, trade,
controversy or issues dealing with the 'Others'.
The Trine was first and foremost a showcase for contests
of combat skills, however merchanting ran a close second in popularity.
Long avenues of gaily decorated felt gers offered a wide variety of trade
goods, as well as all manner of food and drink. The athletic competitions
mainly took the form of tourneys featuring equestrian skills combined
with archery. However, a number of opportunities were offered to test
the skills of sword and hammer.
A popular event during the six weeks of the Trine was
the "Yesui Moon", a night of mystery and frolic. Held on the "high" full
moon, the rite is attended by unmarried men and women of at least a marriageable
age. Their bodies were cleansed with three days of meditation, sweat
baths and fasting, during which time those intending to participate in
the ritual -- called the Yesui -- took in nothing but water and a steeped
tea of herbs and certain ground roots that were held to have cleansing
properties. The term "Yesui" was used to designate both the
ritual and those who participated in it. Roughly translated, it meant
either the "search" or "searching", or a "seeker" in
reference to an individual.
The Yesui Moon culminated on the evening of the third
day with a feast and a revel of drums and dancing. Although the purified
Seekers were not allowed to eat, during the meal they were given a type
of fermented mead that was said to have magical properties, heightening
awareness as well as libido. They were required to participate in the
dancing, which grew in tempo and momentum as the drummers escalated the
pace into a dizzy whirl. During the final rounds of drumming, they were
blindfolded and led away to the edge of the forest surrounding the vale.
Once there, the Yesui entered the forest with the purpose of "following
Mother Moonlight's impetus."
Tradition dictated that the blindfolds remain in place
during the whole night. The following dawn found the Yesui returning,
bedraggled and exhausted from the night's events. The blindfolds were
removed during a short ceremony, and the halflings were taken to a specially
designated ger to fall into exhausted slumber, many of them entwined
in a new lover's arms.
During the final two weeks of the Trine, marriages --
or hand-fasts as the halflings call the institution -- were planned and
celebrated. Many of these unions had been initiated during the Yesui,
or else during the Yesui of the previous year, or two in the case of
those who wished a more lengthy "Trial of Affections."
For those who became pledged to one another during the
Yesui and decided to wait for a time before they were hand-fasted, it
was customary for the man to travel and reside with the woman's family
during the ensuing time. Also during that time, the woman had a choice
of sharing a pallet with her intended, or remaining in a separate ger
with any unmarried sisters, aunts or cousins. Should a child result from
cohabitation, its parents were expected to hand-fast without delay at
the next Trine.
The Yesui was not strictly limited to those hoping for
a life-partner. Any halfling who was not hand-fasted had the prerogative
to participate. In those cases, the intention was viewed as an effort
to reaffirm the young (or inexhaustible) heart in every member of the
Truefolk, an assertion of strength and vitality for all the Tribes. Women
who found themselves with child following the Yesui were viewed as being
especially blessed, and their children were honored as being favored
by the Night's mystery.
On rare occasions, a Yesui failed to return from the
forest. Those individuals were considered by all to have received a unique
honor: having been chosen by one of the Moons as a lover. A quiet remembrance
ceremony for the immediate family was held shortly thereafter. Then,
during the hand-fasting week, a ceremony for the absent one was conducted,
wherein he or she was officially hand-fasted with the Goddess of the
Night Sky, bringing much honor to the missing halfling as well as to
their extended family.
Many halfling songs concerned the Yesui, sagas filled
with strange and glorious happenings during the moonlit night. All of
these were represented as being the absolute truth and no member of the
Truefolk was ever willing to dispute the veracity of these tales. For
to do so was viewed as tantamount to declaring the mystery of the Yesui
itself invalid, a mystery believed to be inextricably interwoven with
the concept of love and the union of a halfling with his or her mate.
In the most northerly region of the steppes, the Mhoragian tribes
principally led a hunter/gatherer lifestyle, living in beautifully
decorated round tents.
Very early in Mhoragian history, the horse migrated north and
appeared on the steppes, quickly burgeoning into large herds. Over
time, the harsh climate had its effect on the animals, giving them
a smaller stature and a pelt that was much heavier than their southern
cousins. The Mhoragian halflings lost no time in capturing and
taming these animals, an event that transformed their existence.
Utilizing the horses to carry them as well as pull their wagons,
the Mhoragian halflings' nomadic range was drastically expanded.
They spread across the steppes, crossing hundreds of miles every
year but always returning to the Shirelands in late summer for
the annual Trine.
The Mhoragians principally subsisted on the spoils of the hunt,
supplemented with various types of cheese made from goat and mare's
milk, and berries the children gathered while their elders were
away from camp seeking game. Other than the elaborate designs painted
on their tents and dyed on their leather clothing, they employed
few handcrafts. Beading was an exception. Used as a pastime to
while away the long, wintry days when snow made hunting impossible,
men, women and children became masterful at the art. The designs
woven from the vividly hued beads had a variety of applications,
ranging from their use as a primitive calendar system, to a rich
symbolic language for depicting heroic events and legends.
Pottery and other household items were obtained by the Mhoragians
from the other tribes via trade, as were cured fish (considered
a rare delicacy among the nomads) and seasoned wood with which
to make arrows and bows. As well as being renowned for their skill
in crafting the weapons, they were consummate archers.
Northeast/Lake Khesta 'Dahl
The Brughan tribes crossed the steppes and settled around the
shores of a large, freshwater lake they called Khesta 'Dahl (the
name meaning Sister of the Mists). Situated at the edge of a vast,
old growth forest, the lake and its environs teemed with all manner
of game, fowl and fish.
On the temperate plains bordering the harsher climate of the steppes,
the Brughans learned to supplement their diets with rudimentary
farming. These crops tended to be loosely plotted and consisted
mainly of wheat and maize, which they ground into flour. From this
flour, the halflings made a paper-thin variety of bread cooked
in domed ovens called 'ackras', which they constructed from rocks
found around the lake.
Given the bountiful resources of fish in the lake, the Brughans
learned to construct canoe-type boats, each hollowed from the trunk
of a tree. Often reaching a length of 40 to 50 feet, the 'ranga'
was, in some cases, manned by a synchronized team of rowers coordinated
by a drummer seated at the craft's bow. These large crafts were
usually used for ceremonial purposes, and were richly decorated
with vividly colored designs. More commonly, a smaller version
of the boat was sailed with either one or two rowers and an additional
crewman along to do the fishing. According to pictographs showing
this activity, favorite catches included trout, salmon and perch.
There is reason to deduce from certain of the designs that scavenger
fish were never consumed, and were considered 'unpalatable' by
Just as their brethren possessed expert equestrian abilities,
so too did the Brughans. However, their principal stock was a larger
variety of pony, carrying a shorter coat than the shaggy steppe
horses the Mhoragians tended to favor. The 'Brughan shire horse'
was also a taller animal, though still small in comparison to the
Settling along the northern border of the forests, in an area
of rolling hills and plains alternating with thick, deciduous forests,
the Malghava halflings lived a predominately settled lifestyle,
giving up their nomadic tendencies as time passed. By the time
the elves took notice of the northern people and begin to document
occasional encounters, the Malghavans were known for constructing
their peculiar dwellings built into the Shirelands' rolling hillsides.
And notably, they utilized fences to enclose herds and crops, an
immense change in philosophy from their wide-ranging relations
living to the north and northeast.
The Malghavans became well known for breeding a variety of Brughan
Shire horse notable for its distinctive coloration. Often called
the Malghavan saddle horse, the breed's coat ranged from pale ivory
to a rich palomino color, with white mane, tail and foot 'feathers.'
In a typical Malghavan shire, a group of picturesque round doors
was scattered around a larger 'Trine Hall', which was usually built
of stone. The Trine Hall buildings were often open-sided and sometimes
octagonal in shape as well, and all generally had a large hearth
at their center with an open smoke-hole in the roof above.
The fences surrounding a Malghavan shire were widely known for
their beautiful construction. The heavy-veined granite and fieldstone,
mottled with lichens, provided a lovely contrast to the rich brown
and emerald tones of the fields and pastures they outlined.
On cursory observation, a typical shire looked the model of domestication;
in actuality, however, the Malghavan halflings could be considered
somewhat of a hybrid. Inside the dwellings, the furnishings were,
for the most part, rudimentary and sparse. For although the Malghavans
were superb craftsmen when it came to their wagons, weapons and
personal belongings, they tended to put little effort into anything
that got left behind during a yearly period of travel they call
Literally, the term meant 'to walk about,' though these ventures
tended to last at least a couple of months, during which time the
shires were closed up and forgotten. It was not uncommon for a
tribe of Malghavans to return to a completely different shire at
the end of their yearly migration. If they found the shire they
left occupied upon their return, they simply traveled to another
one and settled in.
A notable exception to the custom of taheaga was the largest of
the fifes, a town known as Fraelshire. It was here that the yearly
Trine was held, and the community of halflings residing in Fraelshire
spent the usual time of 'taheaga' preparing to host the gathering.
By tradition, the Malghavians hosted the Trine. A six-week-long
celebration of family bonds, this gathering of all the halfling
tribes featured trading, and the sharing of stories, as well as
athletic matches and a much-anticipated meeting arena for tribal
members looking for a wife or husband. By ancient law, attendance
of the Trine is compulsory and all families traveled to it regardless