Daqin, vast in its wilderness and often hostile in its temperament, has always been regarded as backward by much of the world, and its regular wars with Ceres and the Crimson Empire have only served to underscore this, with its vast tundra and taiga serving to bog invading armies down. But Daqin’s history has also been one of expansion, and there is no greater casualty of this than the halflings who once lived there.

Believed by some to be an admixture of the dwarves from the Shattered Isles and the humans from the south before the Sea Peoples destroyed the dwarven kingdoms, halflings occupied some of the best and most productive agricultural land in what is now Daqin, but they were also staunch pacifists and pastoralists. None of their settlements was larger than a few families, and isolated farms which only gathered for a few annual festivals were the rule rather than the exception. Pacifism was also an imperative in the halflings’ interpretation of their religion–a syncretic mix of local shamanism, dwarven dualism, and the Sepulcher of the Creator. This was non-negotiable; it was preferable to die resisting passively than to raise a hand in self-defense against a thinking being.

The modern nation of Daqin coveted the halfling lands, and easily established its supremacy over them once it had emerged from the civil wars that were its birth pangs. But merely taxing the halflings and making use of their farms was not enough; the rulers of Daqin constantly faced demands from their own people to evict and/or exterminate the halflings, a demand made all the more pressing by the Sepulcher which regarded their syncretism as heresy. So the halflings’ lands and rights were systematically restricted until they were little more than chattel laborers on massive estates owned by Daqin nobles. But even this was insufficient, as they were smaller and weaker than humans, and eventually the Daqini simply rounded up the survivors and deported them to the farthest reaches of their empire.

Halflings, despite their relative isolation from one another in terms of family groups, were intensely social beings who could not thrive, let alone thrive, without a fixed social unit like a family. The tumult of their relocation proved to be their undoing, as most of the population had wasted away or even taken their own lives within a decade of the move. The last reliable census by the Daqini had less than 300 halflings, and as that was just before a period of 30 years’ warfare, they are widely regarded as extinct.

It is possible some halflings persist, especially if they moved out into the taiga in family units, but without a broad social context for intermarriage and other social rituals, it is highly unlikely that they will survive as a species. Since halflings, alone among known sapient species, can interbreed with both dwarves and humans, there are many of remote halfling ancestry alive today. Sadly, the culture that sustained them is lost and likely irretrievable.

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