People of Luiren
Most folk who visit Luiren come away with a mixed sense of warmth and confusion. The halflings of this land are happy and gregarious, but their customs and traditions seem more than a little strange to anyone from another land. On the coast, where the majority of their trade occurs, the halflings go out of their way to accommodate the Big Folk, building larger places for them to sit, eat, and sleep. Those living inland are just as happy to see humans, elves, half-elves, and dwarves as their kin on the coast, but about the best they can offer in the way of hospitality is a dry barn and a hot meal or two.
Races and Cultures
Though the hin can be found in almost every corner of Faerûn, they are considered visitors everywhere in the world except here.
In the cities of the humans, halflings are often relegated to ethnic neighborhoods. In Luiren, however, the hin rule, and their culture reflects that fact. Few members of the other races stay in Luiren long - not because they are inherently unwelcome, but simply because they don't fit in - both literally and figuratively.
The three halflings subraces all look the same, though their manner of dress tends to differentiate them from one another. The typical hin stands about 3 feet tall and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. She has dark brown or black eyes, ruddy skin, and straight, black hair. Once in a while, however, a child is born with fairer skin and curly brown or red-brown hair. Such a feature is always considered a good portent, and the hin say that such a child is "blessed by Brandobaris."
Very few ghostwise halflings still dwell in Luiren, and those who do live deep in the Lluirwood. These hin are rarely seen by visitors.
Though lightfoot halflings call Luiren home, they constitute only a small minority there because most of them departed the Lluirwood right after the Ghostwars. According to the tales passed down from parents to children, the lightfoots were unwilling to remain in close proximity to the sites of the massacres that had occurred during that conflict. Those few who stayed behind had little choice but to settle in with the stronghearts, trading in their nomadic ways for more sedentary lifestyles.
Lightfoot halflings are similar in almost every physical respect to their strongheart cousins. In fact, the only discernible difference between the two subraces is attitude. Lightfoot halflings tend to be jovial, almost carefree individuals, and their nomadic nature has never completely left them. In fact, the habit of frequent relocation within Luiren (see Life and Society, below) was instituted by the lightfoots to assuage their wanderlust without actually leaving their homeland, though this practice was later adopted by the stronghearts as well. Lightfoots immensely enjoy pets, and the typical lightfoot family keeps a large hound of some sort as both companion and protector. Lightfoots might not be quite as stodgy and dour as their strongheart cousins, but both groups have learned that the only way to convince the tall people to leave them alone is to fight back. The lightfoots used to just run away, but now they stand shoulder to shoulder with their strongheart neighbors when necessary.
Of the three subraces of halflings native to Faerûn, the stronghearts are the most closely tied to Luiren, and the vast majority of them still reside in their native land. It was the stronghearts who first experienced the depredations of the ghostwise tribe during the Hin Ghostwars, and the stronghearts were the ones who insisted on seeing that grisly work all the way to its conclusion (see History of Luiren, below). After the Hin Ghostwars, the strongheart halflings chose to turn away from their previously nomadic existence, clearing the forest and settling the land now known as Luiren.
Though hot quite as dour and reserved as ghostwise halflings, the stronghearts are the most down-to-earth and practical of the three subraces. Whereas the lightfoots have never completely shaken off their desire for travel, most stronghearts are content to work their land, share their goods, and enjoy a pleasant evening in front of a hearth with a filled pipe. At the same time, the stronghearts have adapted well to the lightfoots' concept of a partially nomadic existence, and they occasionally pack up and shift to new locations (and as often as not new careers) without undue thought. The strongheart tribe has earned its name on more than one occasion from its members' fierce determination to stand strong in the face of adversity, to defend their homeland and protect their young, and to endure the hardships of the land. More than a few would-be invaders have been surprised by the unwavering determination of their strongheart foes.
Strongheart halflings prefer to dress in simple garb suitable for working in the fields or laboring in the city. A male strongheart typically wears loose pants stuffed inside stout work boots, with a sleeveless leather lace-up vest over a simple linen shirt. A female usually prefers a peasant dress, often with an apron, and a simple cap beneath which to tuck her hair. During inclement weather, a halfling of either gender wears a light cloak to keep out the damp. In addition, a typical strongheart takes along a good walking stick wherever she goes.
Life and Society
The halflings of Luiren live a happy-go-lucky lifestyle that suits them well but causes some misunderstandings with other races. Teamwork is a major component of hin society, and just about every halfling worth his salt pitches in to help with whatever community project is at hand. The Small Folk have an innate understanding of the fact that no individual can get much done without cooperation from his fellows.
One unique aspect of Luiren's culture is the halflings' occasional desire to uproot themselves and relocate. A family might suddenly decide to move to another part of the same town, or even to a different city. Families often exchange the intensity of life in an urban center for the rural quiet of farm life, or vice versa. Such a relocation can occur several times in a halfling's life, and someone moves at least once per tenday in any sizable community. When a halfling moves, all his possessions are left behind - furniture, food, clothing, and even his job. All the neighbors pitch in to throw a special kind of going-away party, wherein everyone helps clean up the property to get it ready for the next tenants. The house does not stay empty for long, because whenever a hin family moves away, another soon arrives.
At any given time, a certain percentage of the abodes in any locale are vacant and waiting for new occupants. Families visiting a town for the first time might spend a day or two checking out the vacancies before deciding which place (and furniture, and clothing, and job) are right.for them. Outsiders find this behavior more than a little odd, but to the hin, it's as natural as a rainbow after rain.
Most of Luiren's economy is based on agriculture. The hin export raw foodstuffs such as grains, vegetables, and citrus fruits, plus prepared foods such as cheese, brewed beverages, and baked goods (particularly pastries). They also offer a few handcrafted items, such as carved wood and fired pottery goods. A few farms also specialize in livestock, so wool and hides are exported in small quantities.
The halflings do a substantial amount of trade with the gold dwarves of the Great Rift, exchanging their surplus foodstuffs for precious metals. Most of their remaining trade goods travel to market by ship, but few halflings have the temperament for sea travel, so they rely on merchants from other lands (primarily Durpar) to handle such trade for them. Because of this frequent business contact, certain inns and taverns in the coastal cities of Luiren, where the human merchant ships dock, offer human-size accommodations.
The remaining goods are taken overland by caravan to Dambrath. Great care is used on such trips because the halflings know their Crinti neighbors (and their long history of aggressive invasion) quite well. For that reason alone; the halflings choose to conduct their negotiations with merchants in Dunfeld traveling deeper into Dambrathan territory. Other caravans travel the road between Luiren and Estagund, though this route isn't a main trading path, since moving the goods by ship is usually easier, faster, and less dangerous.
The hin do not mint their own coins, since they have no need for them except to trade with outsiders. Inland, most hin feel no need for money, instead using a barter system to trade with one another when the need arises. Halflings who do not have cause to visit the coast or the border regions of Luiren can go months or years without seeing a minted coin. What little coinage does move through the coastal trading cities comes from other nations, primarily Dambrath and Durpar. Thus far, the hin have adamantly refused to allow the Red Wizards of Thay to proliferate in their homeland. To date, the Thayans have inquired several times about the possibility of establishing an enclave in Beluir, and each time, the mayor -with the solid backing of both the citizens and the leaders of the clergy - has steadfastly refused. The hin feel that no good can come from allowing the wretched Red Wizards to get a toehold in Luiren, and their attitudes aren't likely to change anytime soon.
Law and Order
The hin of Luiren have few laws and many customs. Strictly limiting the actions of a people who are whimsical and mischievous by nature - and who acknowledge an avowed rascal in their pantheon - would be a nigh-impossible task. Nonetheless, the halflings manage to regulate themselves enough to prevent most serious offenses against society. When a native of Luiren commits a minor offense, the miscreant usually just receives a good "talking-to" and an admonition to straighten up and fly right from an older, wiser halfling. When an outsider stirs up trouble, the halflings often find creative ways to turn the crime back on the criminal. For example, a con artist might find himself duped into losing his own coin as well as what he gained through his cheating ways, or a thief might wake up to discover that he's been moved in the middle of the night - minus his belongings - to the middle of nowhere.
The halflings recognize that there are a few truly bad apples in every barrel, and that if left unchecked, an exceptionally villainous individual can cause quite a mess. When such a situation occurs, the hin call on a local marchwarden (see Defense and Warcraft, below) to administer justice. Though halflings are generally jovial and prone to forgiving slights, they can deal with serious threats quite firmly, as evidenced by the Ghostwars. When hin law catches up to a murderer, he shouldn't expect much more than a quick execution.
In any rural community in Luiren, two rather informal councils of village elders handle most of the governing. The menfolk assemble on the front stoop of the largest communal building (usually a taproom or general store), and the womenfolk gather around the baking table inside. These two groups discuss the situations facing the community and decide on the proper way to handle any problems. Usually, the most respected and/or prominent citizen in the community presides over the dual meeting as mayor or wise woman, though occasionally a marchwarden assumes the role of leader. This individual listens to all arguments and counterarguments and, if the gathering cannot come to a consensus, hands down a decision for dealing with the situation at hand.
In Luiren's urban centers, the governing body is more formal. During each of the five seasonal holidays, anyone who wishes a voice in the government comes to the central square (or the marketplace or the green in front of the mayor's office) to participate in discussions on the issues that concern the community. These debates address all pertinent topics, including whether or not the current nizyor is handling the situation well enough to continue serving. More often than not, unless a real crisis occurs or the current mayor has decided to uproot and move to a new place for a while, that part of the discussion lasts only a few moments and consists of a few toasts, some good-natured jokes at the mayor's expense, and a quick verbal vote before the real celebrations begin. Should a change of leadership be in order, the citizens might spend an hour or two hearing various prominent citizens speak before a vote is called. At that point, whichever hin is elected takes over management of the town or city.
The mayor is responsible for the city's day-to-day public operations, but he usually delegates such tasks to other halflings who he knows can get the job done. A halfling settlement often collects a minimal tax to help defray the costs of running the city, but the tax rates are usually very low. The marchwardens, with the aid of a few volunteer city guards, deal with any trouble that erupts, whether caused by halflings or outsiders. Few humans who have spent a night or two in a halfling-sized prison cell are eager to do so again.
Defense and Warcraft
Along the boundaries of the nation - most specifically at the edges of the forests - a loosely organized group of halfling protectors known as marchwardens is constantly on the lookout for threats. The marchwardens are volunteers who understand the need to be vigilant and have the necessary skills to handle trouble. The rest of the population genuinely appreciates the marchwardens, recognizing them as Luiren's first line of defense against enemies.
For such a small people., the hin are surprisingly ferocious when it comes to defending their homes and land. They do not make a habit of going to war, but they are perfectly capable of rising up and organizing a defense against other nations or monsters that arrive with conquest on their minds: Marchwardens are quite effective at motivating and guiding militia forces of halflings against larger opponents, and many an invading army has discovered that such a force is good at guerrilla tactics, especially in regions heavy with wooded thickets. Since almost every side of Luiren is screened by forest, such tactics almost invariably work to the halflings' advantage.
Defense of the coast is a bit trickier for the halflings of Luiren. Only a few of the Small Folk are truly comfortable on the ocean, so hin warships are few. Instead, the folk of Luiren find honest, trustworthy human corsairs and offer them a regular cut of trade profits in exchange for patrolling the coastline. Those few halflings Who do take to the sea often sail with this independent "navy." Though halflings might seem silly and flighty to members of other races, they are good judges of character and have little trouble distinguishing trustworthy sea captains from those who would try to take advantage of them.
As a rule, halflings prefer to venerate the entire hin pantheon, recognizing the value that each deity brings to the overall religious experience. The stronghearts and lightfoots of Luiren, however, often choose to favor some deities over others. Arvoreen has the most ardent following, since the natives of Luiren find the tenets of the Vigilant Guardian most in keeping with their line of thinking about how to protect their land. Many clerics of the Wary Sword serve in positions of political power, as mayors or even marchwardens.
After Arvoreen, Yondalla is the most popular deity among Luiren folk. The halflings view her focus on home and security as wise and useful, and they welcome her notions of tradition. In addition, a sizable faction of hin - especially druids and rangers who live on the fringes of civilization - choose to venerate Sheela Peryroyl.
Most of the settled halflings who have remained in Luiren are curious, if not troubled, by the teachings of Cyrollalee the Hearthkeeper, who urges her followers to earn the respect of other peoples by establishing a hin nation. After all, Luiren is already such a nation, and its citizens do not understand why the goddess would suggest otherwise. While few hin go out of their way to discredit such views, they believe that this concept bears careful watching.
Although every halfling offers up some lighthearted respect to Brandobaris, few who live in Luiren truly venerate the trickster deity. All hin understand that Brandobaris's outlook and antics reflect a part of their nature, but the older and wiser individuals also understand the limitations of such behavior. Nonetheless, every halfling knows by heart the legend of how Brandobaris helped the halflings found Luiren in the dawning days of Faerûn, and almost every hin offers an occasional prayer of thanks to him for granting the race its clever and cunning nature.
The hin certainly do not object to the presence of adventurers in their lands, and in fact, their tradition of hospitality demands that they welcome such visitors, as long as they don't cause any trouble. The hin tend to be a little more cautious about wizards and sorcerers than they are about other adventurers, since proximity to Halruaa and Durpar has made the halflings wary of powerful arcane spellcasters who use magic excessively. Likewise, priests of dangerous or evil deities are unwelcome inside Luiren's borders, but other clerics are permitted to visit, so long as they do not attempt to proselytize to the locals.
The hin know that most out-of-towners come to Luiren not to see them, but to explore the dangerous places along the fringes of civilization. This suits the halflings just fine, since adventurers usually return from their quests with coin to spend on goods and services, and they might actually defeat a dangerous monster or two along the way. The halflings gladly let the adventurers keep half of everything valuable that they bring back from the depths of the forests, swamps, and mountains.
The Legend of Luiren;s Founding
Before the fall of Myth Drannor, when the Lluirwood covered the whole of the land that is now Luiren and Estagund, the Small Folk came to Faerûn. At first, they lived on the coast of the Luirenstrand, while the ogres ruled the woods. These cruel, terrible creatures tormented the Small Folk constantly, and they prayed for deliverance. One day, a halfling named Kaldair Swiftfoot came upon the avatar of the ogre deity, Vaprak the Destroyer. The halfling began to tease Vaprak and finally challenged the avatar to catch him if he could. In a rage, Vaprak chased the halfling for ten days and nights, but he could never succeed in grabbing the irksome creature.
Finally, Vaprak collapsed in exhaustion, and Kaldair approached him. "You cannot defeat me in a battle of agility, and I do not think you can beat me in a test of strength," he said.
Vaprak growled at the insult and quickly agreed to the test.
"Let's see which of us can pull a tree out of the ground without ripping its roots apart," Kaldair suggested. "If you win, the hin will retreat to the mountains north of the forest, and the ogres may have the woodlands all to themselves. But if I win, all the ogres must live in the mountains, leaving the forest to the Small Folk."
Vaprak agreed and immediately grasped the nearest tree. He yanked it easily from the ground but many of its roots tore. The ogre deity's avatar tried again, but again; he succeeded only in damaging the tree.
Finally, after Vaprak had tried and failed with many great trees, Kaldair took his turn. He walked up to the tiniest sapling and very carefully removed it, pulling its lone taproot from the ground with harming it in the least.
Vaprak trembled and roared with rage, but he knew that he had been beaten. At that moment, Kaldair revealed his true identity - Brandobaris the Trickster.
"You cannot best me in a test of agility, nor can you win in a contest of wits, it would seem," the hin deity taunted. "Now you and your kind must leave the woods for the mountains and never bother the Small Folk again."
Vaprak raged and stomped and tore up more trees, but he had been beaten fair and square. So he gathered his ogre people and took them into the Toadsquat Mountains, where they live to this day.
And that is how Brandobaris won the kingdom of Luiren for the halflings.