The Jungle Halfling Manifesto
Primitive halflings arrived to the jungles of Eyr many years before the arrival of the first humans. The stone giants had long inhabited the misty jungles before them and the city of Shalan’ti was just beginning to form. These halflings were in every way similar to halflings of other lands, short of stature and quick of wit with feeble frames compared to their full sized counterparts. They learned early on how quickly doom could be spelled out for their kin in this harsh jungle environment. There was danger lurking in every corner whether it be a man-eating serpent-man or a shape-shifting leopard, one could say that it was fated for them to die off within years. Fate had a different plan in store for them.
It started small as things typically do with this luck-blessed race of short humanoids. As they tasted of the flora which dotted the jungle’s vast landscape they experimented with mushrooms which elicited hallucinations. These early shamans found themselves capable of communicating with spirits of the jungle itself. A merry and close-knit people despite hardships, they began to cluster together around individuals who claimed to be able to have long term communications with such eldritch entities. The jungle itself is a place of vast danger and decay, however, and much of their communications lead them down a path to explore the death of all beings and what lay beyond. This is what the jungle revealed to them, their ultimate truth that binds all living creatures: Death is imminent. It waits for no man. It knows no mercy.
Many of their own had died since coming to this dangerous place and they sought to understand such. They sought to unlock the secrets of what the jungle had whispered to their most esteemed elders. The dabbling into black arts began. It began with chanting and music, a cornerstone of their people as all of their history is passed orally through storytelling. The magic itself demanded more though, heavier prices to spur them towards a mastery over the realm of death and beyond. The ritual bloodletting began shortly after which gave way to ritual sacrifice. The doors of the darkest magics had been flung open and their entire race came tumbling down into it. This changed them physically. Their eyes took on a yellowish, almost unnatural gleam. They developed an urge to sharpen and file their nails and teeth. Personal grooming and personal aesthetics all but forgotten in the pursuit of forbidden eldritch knowledge, hair matted and dreadlocked. Their skin usually ashen at birth though sun exposure could darken it.
The first halflings had the biggest breakthrough in the dark arts, immortalizing themselves as powerful and greedy spirits that would be known as the Gahouda by their descendants and worshipped as gods. The magic of the dark arts became intertwined with their culture, none batting an eye at the chanting and sacrifice of an animal by a neighbor to ensure the safety of their child from the predators that lurk in the dark, misty jungle. They were and still are willing to pay the heaviest prices to survive as a people in this harsh jungle world. Yet despite all of the darkness that their people regularly engage in, they find reasons to smile beyond the successful reanimation of a guardian for their jungle. They gather about fires as their brethren beat drums and throw powders harvested from the jungles into the flames, illuminating their faces in vibrant hues as bards spin tales of adventure and peril within the flickering flames with magics. Life and death are celebrated with equal vigor as the goal of each tribe is to see their brethren and descendants survive in this jungle which they have now called home longer than any can remember.
When the Shalan’ti came down from their mighty city to enslave the natives so that they could build their fine cities, they found the halflings to be a prey not worth fighting. The halflings knew the jungle, could move effortlessly among the underbrush where the larger races would be hindered, and when they came upon whole villages they found scores of undead that rose to meet them in the swamps and the jungles. Shalan’ti slavers came back with stories of half-men, teeth and nails like beasts, eyes of golden fury, hexes weaved from the unholy divine aether of ancient dark spirits that befuddled the arcane minds of the glistening city, and tribes of the undead. Those that the Shalan’ti did manage to enslave were incapable of lifting much for very long due to their weak statures and were subsequently killed. The dark spirits whispered to their brethren in the jungles of their kins’ demise and the jungles would be filled to the brim with the keening of the tribes. These are not a weak people. Their fury fell upon the city in the form of an insidious plague that spanned a week and took the lives of double that which had been robbed from the tribes yet the shining city could find none to blame.
By oath, blood, unity, and dark magic these people have survived the years. They are the ones who commune with spirits in the mists of the jungle. They make pacts with ancient dark spirits. They revel in the ecstasy of the hope they salvage for themselves and hold it between their teeth as the horrors of the jungle try to steal it away from them.