The Song of the Qui-Chi
Most halflings wander the forest ridges along the crest of the Ringing Mountains, sustaining themselves through hunting and gathering. Generally, they live in small, isolated clans that ramble through a well-defined territory. Every 100 days, however, these clans go to a small village abutting their territory. The village is little more than a stone pyramid rising above the forest canopy, surrounded by ten to twelve stone houses where the tribal chief, his wives, and high priests live. The chief resembles the sorcerer-king of the cities in that he is the absolute ruler of his territory (usually all the forest within fifty miles of his village), and in that he is a powerful wizard. However, all halfling chiefs are Preservers, not Defilers, and exercise great care not to destroy the forest when they use their magic. For this reason, their magic tends to be much less powerful than that of the sorcerer-kings, and their lifetimes are limited to a normal span. Most of their powers come from their psionic abilities. Halfling villages serve two important functions. First, they are a neutral area where different clans can meet without infringing on each other’s territory. Thus, this is where marriages are arranged, goods are traded, and information is passed between clans. Second, a village is the chief’s home and the center of the government. When the halfling clans go to a village, they take with them food and other items to sustain the chief, his family, and the advisors. Assuming the chief deems the offering adequate, he rewards them by bestowing upon them such blessed abilities that make halflings such capable hunters and stalkers. Aside from using his powers to help his followers be good hunters, the chief also has the duty to defend his clans’ territories from outside encroachment. Therefore, he can conscript subjects as warriors or to build communal structures that serve the general welfare of entire tribe. This authority is never invoked for the purpose of fighting or building defenses against other halflings. Among all halflings, there is such racial harmony that they never fight with one another. When confronted with conflicting interests, even two chiefs will work together to find some compromise that serves both of them. Before moving on in my narrative, I must take a moment to offer a warning to any reader who is contemplating a visit to a halfling village: the greatest gift a clan can offer its chief is a feast. And the finest feast a halfling can imagine is a delicious human or demi-human who has wandered into their territory and been hunted down.
The wild halflings live in the forest along the ridge of the Ringing Mountains. Each clan, numbering between 30 and 75 individuals, hunts and forages within a strictly defined area of 20 to 30 square miles. Normally, this would be too small an area to support so many individuals, but the forest ridge is unusually abundant in both animal and plant life. The halfling clans are careful to avoid crossing into each others territory. This would cause hard feelings, perhaps even a fight. If there is one thing that halflings try never to do, it is offend each other. They have learned that by respecting each clans rights and property, all the clans will enjoy longer, happier lives (perhaps the sorcerer-kings should take a lesson from these wild fellows). When some disaster befalls a clan, they have no need to resort to stealing from one another. Instead, those in need of help simply journey (or send a messenger) to their chief (see Villages) with their request. Assuming the need is genuine, the chief either lends his own support or calls upon his other subject clans to aid the one in trouble. This custom even applies between chiefs; if one of them is ever faced with a problem he cannot handle, his brothers are honor-bound to aid him in whatever manner they can. Because of this custom, which is so deeply ingrained in the halfling mind that it is very nearly instinct, every clan realizes that it is never to their benefit to fight with another halfling clan. Unfortunately for us, this ethic applies only between halflings. They consider anything else (including intelligent races) fair game for the stew pot-or just to steal from, if there are too many intruders to capture. Captured humans and demihumans are considered a delicacy and are usually taken to the chief as an offering, but some clans eat their quarry on the spot-particularly if hunting has not been good of late. When away from their own kind, halflings are mistrustful and cautious. I once asked a halfling why this was. He gave me a spiteful look, then, in all seriousness, replied, "I know what on your mind. You think “not much meat on halfling, but he make good snack someday”". Of course, I tried to explain that it is not common practice for humans to eat their guests, but my little friend refused to believe it. Steadfastly he maintained that, when it came to mealtime, the only race one could trust was his own.