Most sapients on the Garden World were not able to interbreed, with sterile “mules” being the restult of any inter-sapient relationship. But the close relationship between the humans and the dwarves on a genetic level meant that some of their “mules” could bear children in turn. Over time, this people of mixed human and dwarven ancestry became a people in and of themselves, called “banshen” by the Heavenly Empire and “halflings” by the dwarves.

Halflings tend to form insular subcultures within other sapients’ colonies and settlements; they evacuated the Garden World along with both humans and dwarves. Though there are and always have been halfling-only settlements and colonies, the majority of their peoples live in other territories to this day.

That is not to say that they meekly submit to the rule of others, though. Halfling culture obeys what is called the “rule of the sun:” the sun rules what it controls, when it controls it, but it is powerless to stop the moon from shining. In practice, this means that while halflings submit to the laws and rules of others when they must, they also keep their own parallel traditions, legal systems, and traditions that hold sway. These tend to be organized around a broad community consensus, with descent in a matrilineal line from a notable sage past or present being a frequent, but not firm, requirement. Conflicts are settled by assemblies of such local notables if possible, with learned matriarchs’ advice sought out on matters both practical and esoteric.

This it could be argued that the halflings follow a semi-hereditary, semi-democratic matriarchal oligharchy, but as with all sapients this is an oversimplification. Notable lines include the Herenids, from Dame Heren the Wise; the Sollians, from Lady Sollia the Fair; the Grishnekhs, from Mother Grish of Nekh; and the egalitarian Lananids from Madame Lana.

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