Jan 30, 2012

Species of the Dawnlands: Halflings

The dwarf-halfling-goblin-gnome genus consists of the original halfling species, and three true-breeding soul-forged races. Only dwarves and halflings are interfertile, though in actual practice such mixed-race children are considered abominations and the government of Dwer Tor puts them to death when discovered. That halflings and dwarves are the same species is not a widely-known fact within the Dawnlands, even by members of both populations, and due to the tense racial dynamics of Dwer Tor, public claims to this effect are heretical and treasonous. This is also true of the knowledge that dwarves are soul-forged.

All members of the superspecies have more efficiently rooted muscle groups than humans, allowing similar strength despite inferior leverage to longer-limbed humans and elves. All members of the superspecies are either hairless (goblins, some dwarves) or possess only dark, curly hair (most dwarves, halflings, and gnomes).

Dwarves are a true-breeding soul-forged race created from the halfling followers of the divine hero Kakarna by the early Kaddish as payment for his services. The population was transformed to resemble lesser versions of Kakarna. Dwarves tend to have flat or blunted noses, brown skin and large light-coloured eyes with slightly-ovoid pupils, similar to a horse. The average dwarf is about two-thirds the size of a human, but weighs about the same. Dwarves can see heat like others see visible light (hotter objects are brighter), which allows them a degree of vision in total darkness, though they cannot discern colours, or the outlines of objects the same temperature as the background. All known dwarves are found either in Dwer Tor, or in its colonies, or are exiles or refugees from the same. Dwarves are omnivorous, and have similar dietary requirements to humans. Dwarves live several hundred years barring disease or accident. Most live to be between 300 and 400 years old.

Halflings are the autochtonous race of the Dawnlands, having inhabited it since the local equivalent of the neolithic. Halflings tend to have pointed noses, dark-coloured pupils, and their skin is either brown with pale mottling, or pale with brown mottling, which disrupts their outline in natural environments and serves as camouflage. Their physiology resembles a smaller, fatter elf. Halflings are typically half the height of a human. Halflings have a faster metabolism than most humans, and rapidly shed weight if not constantly eating. The halfling digestive system is much more robust than humans, and will digest cellulose in plant material readily, allowing them to eat tree bark, grass, etc. Halflings are omnivorous. Halflings have excellent night vision, but cannot see heat like a dwarf. Their lifespan is comparable to a human's. They are found in the Orthocracy of Kaddish and in Dwer Tor and amongst the Forest Dreamers. In the former two places, they are lower class or caste individuals, while they are the preeminent species amongst the Forest Dreamers and form the bulk of that population.

Goblins are a true-breeding soul-forged race created from halflings 500 years ago that inhabit Moon Peak in the northern Dawnlands. The Dawnmen created them to seek out gold and silver, and goblins possess the ability to detect the presence of metal within about a kilometre of themselves. The same ability gives them an unerring sense of direction. Goblins refer to this sense as a variety of taste or smell. The goblins escaped during the Kaddish revolution, allied themselves with Dwer Tor, and now live a sedentary life operating the only known gold mine in the Dawnlands. Goblins are typically the same height as halflings but considerably thinner. Their skin varies from light blue-grey to dark grey-black, and they have long, sharp noses, large, pointed ears, and extremely large eyes very similar to a dwarf's. Goblins are metallovores, and possess the same heightened lifespan as dwarves. They are not interfertile with any other race of halfling or species.

Gnomes are a true-breeding soul-forged race created in the kingdom of High Kaddish about 600 years ago. Gnomes are widely loathed in Kaddish, and are often extremely lower class in the Orthocracy. A small emigrant population lives in Dwer Tor, where it pursues an honoured and respected trade. Gnomes are of similar height and build to a halfling, but their eyes are completely black, and they have sharp, canine-like teeth filling their entire mouth. Gnomish fingernails are hardened, similar to claws when allowed to grow out. Gnomes subsist entirely on the life-energy of living things and spirits, particularly ghosts. The easiest time for them to feed is either at the point of death or shortly after. Cadavers that are "gnome-eaten" will not rise from the dead of their own accord, nor will they spawn ghosts. Popular belief amongst the Kaddish holds that gnomes eat souls, and this is the source of the hatred the Kaddish feel. The Dwer believe that gnomes eat the pneuma, or animating life force of the body, while the soul is untouched by them. There is some evidence to support the latter idea, as gnomes traditionally work as morticians and grave attendants in Dwer Tor, and their preparation / consumption of several dying divine heroes has not prevented those same heroes from returning on later occasions.