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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 a living.

The Great Northern Steppes

The Trine

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.

The Trine symbol.

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 these halflings.

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 Vaalorian thoroughbred.

The Shirelands

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 the 'taheaga.'

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 of circumstances.

 



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