Halflings of the Broken Dragon Isles
“We are the children of Melora and Avandra. Melora provides us all we need to flourish. Avandra gifted us with the daring to take it. We are a twice-blessed people.”
If you wish to find a halfling in the Broken Dragon Island Kingdom, look to the sea. Along the shallows and in the relative safety of the bays you will see many of the clan-rafts lashed together, seemingly at random. Out in the deeps and in the stormy oceans you will find the longboats manned by daring hunters testing their will and wits against the dangers and bounty of the sea. They are even found below the waves, diving for pearls and the treasures of a lost age. For while all of the races sail the seas, only the halflings are truly at home upon the waters.
Melora’s Children, Avandra’s Chosen
The halflings have a saying: “Melora’s bounty can be found where Avandra dares.” Which is to say that to reap the bounty of the seas one must be of stout heart and fortunate persuasion. This one saying encapsulates all of halfling culture. Though they might be small they have taken it upon themselves to make a living from the sea, a task not to be undertaken lightly. Dangerous monsters and powerful tides make sailing a treacherous proposition, yet the halflings consider it their way of life.
The sea and its bounty are at the heart of halfling culture. It is the halflings who take up the dangerous professions of whaling, pearl diving, and even monster hunting. While quite at home at sea, not many halflings are skilled at long sea voyages. They prefer large rafts and open longboats over more complicated sailing vessels. For while they reap the oceans bounty, they like to stay in sight of the shore whenever possible.
While halflings are daring, they are also superstitious. The consider themselves to be the children of Melora, yet they also revere Avandra with equal measure. Melora is the goddess of plenty and the sea’s bounty, while Avandra is the patron of anyone brave enough to sail the dangerous waters. Thus most halflings given worship to both goddesses, observing many holy days and making regular offerings to the sea and the goddess of luck. It is a rare halfling who does not give the Goddesses their due in all things. Those who forsake the gods are usually cast out to live among the Voiceless Ones, for there are no atheists aboard a vessel.
The heart of any halfling community is the clan-raft. Ever clan-raft is a well made flat-bottomed vessel topped by one or more buildings. Each clan-raft usually houses a single extended family, though many of the Clans have one or more rafts as well. Usually several clan-rafts are lashed together when convenient, forming small floating cities in the bays and shallows of the islands. Each clan-raft is considered an autonomous vessel under command of the family patriarch or matriarch. When a family tires of their current location or neighbors they simply cast off and float to a new location.
Each clan-raft is ruled by its captain (usually the eldest halfling of the family). The captain’s word is law and mutiny is not tolerated. There are usually few problems with this arrangement, as those elected to the position of captain are generally wise and older. Only a member of one of the four clans can be captain – for this reason the most promising members of each family are urged to undergo the Passage. In this way the halflings maintain a tie with the rest of the races, ensuring that every clan-raft will have a voice at the Council.
Most clan-rafts hold no more than a few dozen halflings at any one time. The captain has final say of who can join a clan-raft, though most family members are welcomed with open arms. When a halfling of a clan-raft marries they can choose which family clan-raft to join, or in some instances start their own clan-raft instead. New clan-rafts are usually only formed after a couple has several children to aid them in their tasks, for maining a clan-raft is a dangerous and arduous task. Rarely a group of newly wedded couples would split off to form their own clan-raft, naming each other blood-brothers and sisters, forming a new family in the process.
During the stormy seasons or times of trouble most families retreat to the shallows and lash as many clan-rafts together as possible. The stormy seasons are always a time of great revelry as members of different families walking from raft to raft, visiting old friends and making new acquaintances. It is during this time that new alliances are formed, friendships made, and couples wed. The stormy season is a time of renewal, thanks, and friendship. This is also the only time of the year where strangers are welcomed aboard a clan-raft. Those wishing to trade with the halflings are well advised to seek them out during this time.
Any halfling who wishes to join a new clan-raft must undertake an additional task known as the Pilgrimage. A Pilgrimage can only be undertaken once a halfling has joined a clan and they are the stuff of legends. During a Pilgrimage a halfling must search for something to present to the captain of the clan-raft he wishes to join. This can be as simple as a new ritual, a new way of preparing fish, or as valuable as a magical item. The entire point of the Pilgrimage is to test the prospective halfling and to strengthen a clan-raft.
Once the halfling has completed his Pilgrimage he then presents his gift to the captain of the clan-raft he wishes to join. The captain can either accept or deny the gift. If the gift is accepted the halfling is greeted as a new member of that clan-raft and a celebration is held. If the gift is denied the halfling must either undertake a new Pilgrimage or slink back to his old clan-raft in shame.
Most captains are happy to accept nearly any gift that took the halfling some skill or luck to acquire. Refusals are rare and a source of great shame. The effort and skill involved in obtaining the gift during a Pilgrimage is of primary concern – the actual value and worth of the gift is much less important. Even a simple gift of a newly forged anchor might be accepted if the tale of its acquisition is bold and entertaining enough. For most halflings the Pilgrimage is about the journey, not the destination.
One of the most important positions aboard a clan-raft is that of the river sage. River sages are responsible for foretelling the weather, sending messages between clan-rafts, and reading the waves to see where the next large catch will be found. Becoming a river sage takes years of dedication and hard work – most river sages are trained from an early age and the position is often hereditary, as the gift of river magic is rare among halflings.
Potential river sages, like captains, must be a member of a clan. The vast majority of river sages belong either to Clan Murrok or Clan Malondra, though of course exceptions exist. The relationship between clan and sage often paints a vivid portrait of a newly minted river sage’s potential and usefulness to a clan-raft.
River sages of Clan Murrok are most prized by most clan-rafts. Their skill at healing is seen as a great boon and such an individual is likely to be courted by several clan-rafts. Those of Clan Malondra are often nicknamed Wave Callers, for they often protect their clan-rafts by calling upon the power of the seas themselves. Sages from Clan Delnor are known as River Guardians and many often lead small hunting parties when not aboard a clan-raft. Sages of Clan Plint are as rare as hen’s teeth and tend to be judged as individuals.
Despite (or perhaps in spite of) their importance, all new river sages are expected to bring great gifts home from their Pilgrimages. While most halflings can get by with a great story and a simple gift, river sages are held to a much higher standard. They are expected to bring back gifts or knowledge that make a clan-raft much stronger or more prosperous. Many new river sages spend years on their Pilgrimages, seeking the perfect thing to ensure that they’ll be welcomed into a clan-raft with open arms.