- "To hear the Big Footers talk, there’s nothing to us but pie and pipeweed. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for pie and pipeweed..."
- —Elmina Elderberrybrushburg, Quartermaster of the Nuln Lodge
It’s not easy being a Halfling outside of the Moot. People look down on you, in both senses. People make fun of you. Some even ignore you altogether. It’s hard for a Halfling citizen to lift himself up and make something of himself when most of the world doesn’t even recognise he exists. The Quinsberry Lodge can help with this. They ensure that Halflings, wherever possible, get fair and equal treatment and all the help they need to make their mark on the Empire. Sometimes, they help in ways that can’t be easily seen. Sometimes, they help without even being asked. Sometimes, they help in ways about which, perhaps, it is better not to ask.
Wherever there are humans, there are Halflings. And wherever there are humans and Halflings, there is prejudice. Outside of the Moot, humans are always the majority of the population, and the laws and customs of the Empire naturally favour the majority. To most humans, Halflings are seen as nothing more than a curious aberration, warranting no great concern. The Empire is for humans, and the Halflings should make the best of it, the best that they can. And thems that don’t like that can shut up or ship out.
Halflings are very good at making the best of things. They never take things too seriously, and are fully aware that the Big Folk will always believe they are better than them. Much of the time, this is no great burden. In fact, it provides countless wonderful opportunities to prove the Big Folk wrong in their superiority. Halflings enjoy little more than undercutting Big Folk, especially blowhards or superior types. This is one reason they enjoy working as servants: Nobody is in a better position to mock the powerful than the man who helps him dress every morning. The Big Folk’s generals may rule the Empire, but it is the Halflings that decide if the generals get the trots on the battlefield or not.
That said, there are times when simply mocking the humans isn’t enough, when law and brutality conspire to destroy Halfling livelihoods and the whole Halfling way of life, with a severity so great that no amount of mocking can appease. Likewise, there are those who tire of having to prove their superiority over the Big Folk over and over again, of always having to be the butt of jokes, of always being ignored — Halflings who would just like to get on with the typical business of being Halflings without constantly having to fight through the barriers the Big Folk set against them.
There is as yet no such thing as The Rights of Man in the Empire, but there is a strong sense of mercantile entitlement. Halflings pay taxes and levies like everyone else. Their houses attract the same land and window taxes even if they are half the size and the windows are tiny. Their tiny ponies are charged the same per leg to enter the city gates as a massive Nordland draughthorse pulling a sixwheel carriage. Inns charge the same price for rooms and beds and meals, while Halfling servants are typically paid half wages because their employers believe they don’t need to eat as much. (In fact, Halfling appetites typically outstrip human ones, but five of them can sleep comfortably in a human bed.)
For all the taxes they pay, they get little return. The city watch rarely respond to Halfling emergencies or try to solve the crimes in Halfling ghettos, preferring to “let the Little Folk sort it out amongst themselves.” Roads and sewers aren’t maintained in Halfling streets, and housing permissions are lost in bureaucracy for years. Halfling guilds are excluded from contracts for no good reason. Halfling celebrations are restricted or curtailed without explanation.
In the face of all this, many Halflings want to spit in the collective soup of the entire human society. Over the history of the Empire, many unofficial or impromptu groups have been created to try and do so, but by far the most longstanding, wealthiest, and most successful of them all is the Quinsberry Lodge.
Everyone knows that it was Emperor Ludwig the Fat who granted the Halflings the Mootland and an electoral vote in 1010 IC. What most people don’t know is it was a Halfling’s idea. Hambelly Hazeldown, Jester to the Crown, suggested the creation of a Halfling Elector to Ludwig as the ultimate joke at the expense of the Electors of Stirland and Averland, whose lands were divided to create the Moot. Ludwig thought it was hilarious, and soon enough the joke was rollicking through the kingdom. And the Halflings laughed all the way to the Volkshalle, seat of the Elector Counts, where Hazeldown was crowned the first Halfling Elector.
The Halfling gift of frivolity belies their natural gift for bureaucracy, but growing up in a family of a dozen practical jokers is in fact perfect training for navigating the madness of Empire politics. And the moment Hazeldown was elected, they began to put this gift to good use. Halfling politicians crawled into the Imperial bureaucracy with the same quiet efficiency with which they had occupied the serving classes, and were soon equally indispensable in the political circles of Altdorf. Those raised to power names for themselves as cunning negotiators and tricky power brokers, who could make or break a deal at the last moment. Meanwhile, all their relatives became scribes, runners, advisors, and attendants, flooding the oil of the wheels of bureaucracy with Halfling blood — so that they could, when necessary, run that oil cold.
Early on, however, two distinct mindsets became to dominate the Halflings in Elector politics. The first group believed in walking quietly, ensuring the survival of the Halflings’ powerbase and the security of the Moot by making deals with the human Electors, on human terms. The second group believed that, ultimately, no power would ever be given to Halfings that wasn’t taken (be it by force or trickery), and that while Halflings remained powerless, they were always at risk. During the years of the Black Plague, the Halflings suffered greatly, as human resources only helped human sufferers. This fuelled the anger of those of the second mindset and drove the two groups further apart.
In 1359, the Elector of Stirland was made Emperor (in Nuln, the second Emperor of the time), and he immediately used his power to repay Ludwig’s insult upon the Moot and its people. While soldiers advanced on the new province, harsh new laws were laid down on the streets of Nuln, and racial violence predictably followed. Ghettos were burned and Halflings stoned in the streets. This was the flashpoint moment in Halfling politics.
To the conservatives, it was evidence that bold movements only painted a target on their tiny bellies. Fearing complete extermination, they took an even more cautious role, preferring to take their punishment and survive until better times came around. To the radicals, this was an unconscionable surrender in the face of undeniable evidence of the Big Folk’s unceasingly violent nature. Only by becoming a very public and vocal force could they ever hope to stop all the little prejudices that inevitably led to such terrible bloodshed. To make a stand, the Altdorf radicals journeyed south to stand with their Nuln brethren, to give them a political voice as much as possible. Doing so, however, meant relinquishing their positions in Altdorf, and severing all ties with the conservative faction. This seemed no great loss, however, as it was now clear that the only way to truly tug the Big Folks’ beards was to do so outside of the Big Folks’ parliaments.
Meanwhile, in Nuln, an underground society had been formed, with a network of safehouses providing food and arming vigilantes to answer the pogrom against the Little Folk. The Altdorf exiles mixed with this group, promising them the political retribution they so dreamed of, and the protection from such persecution ever being repeated. The combination of the physical protection and the impassioned rhetoric was indelible, and when the violence finally subsided in the streets, nearly every Halfling in Nuln was a sworn member of what was then named the Quinsberry Council.
The name, of course, came from Quinsberry, the Halfling god of Ancestry and Tradition, for it was Halfling tradition they most feared would be exterminated in the attacks upon them. Quinsberry was chosen as the watchword for those working to restore Halfling safety and freedoms to Nuln, and weapons or supplies marked for Halfling resisters were daubed with a stylised Q. To this day, the Q remains the symbol of the Lodge. When safer times arrived, the safehouse which had been the site of the terrible Battle of the Blamanges (when puddings were thrown at the human mobs when ammunition ran out) was turned into a meeting house for the leaders of the society. Soon enough the building became known as the Quinsberry Lodge, and thence became the name of the whole society. Whenever prejudice rose, all the Halflings of Nuln knew they could find safety, support — and a jolly good wheeze — at the Quinsberry Lodge.
After the sacking of Nuln by the Orc Warlord Gorbad Ironclaw in 1707, Halflings and humans united to rebuild their shattered city. From this point on, the Lodge could safely come out into the public light and begin pursuing its original goals with real zeal. Lodges were established all over the Empire. In the horror of the Vampire Wars, it was the Lodge in Altdorf — not the Elector Count of the Moot, who was fighting in Sylvania — that ensured that most of the Halflings of that city did not starve during the terrible sieges. Thus the Halflings of Altdorf welcomed the Lodge to their city, and soon all the major centres followed.
After the Great War against Chaos, providence and security returned to the Empire, and there was far less need to seek out scapegoats among the Little Folk. With this increased security, the Lodge was needed less as a safe haven, and it began its political work in earnest. As the centuries passed, the Halflings gained more and more political and legal protection, and outright bigotry and violence faded into the background. But the Lodge knew that the prejudice was only hidden, not gone, and could return in full force at any time. So its battles continue, and shall always continue, until, perhaps someday, the Big Folk finally learn to mind their manners.
The Lodge Today Edit
Today, the organisation is one part trade union, one part gentleman’s club, and one part community pride society. Halflings themselves come into contact with the society mostly in its latter two guises, but it is the former that does the real work of the organisation. As a trade union, the Lodge is a fierce political animal. It knows that political battles can be won both in the quiet halls of guild-houses as well as in the clamouring of the streets, and fights with equal skill in both arenas. But it is in the streets that it generally has its greatest successes, and its most visible effects.
Although prejudice against Halflings remains ever-present under the surface, over the last five hundred years it has become increasingly unfashionable — and thus financially disadvantageous — to be labelled as opposed to or overtly exploitative of Halflings. This has intensified with the increased prominence of Halfling culture through events such as Pie Week. The Lodge has of course heavily encouraged this stigma, and it is their greatest weapon. All that remains is that they make the world aware of the prejudices they are encountering, in such a way that it cannot be ignored by human society. In the increasingly mercantile world of the Empire, every tradesman depends on his good name, and with enough noise, the Lodge can stain that name permanently. What’s more, as crafty businessmen are quickly discovering, they can also establish the reputation of those willing to support the Lodge’s agenda. A tradesman marked by the Lodge as a friend of Halflings will soon find every Halfling in the neighbourhood calling on his services.
Major Lodge houses can be found in the following cities: Altdorf, Carroburg, Nuln, Averheim, Talabheim, and Wurtbad, and smaller institutions are found across the Empire. As yet, the Lodge has no presence in Middenheim, as the Halfling folk tend to avoid that dour, northern city. There are, however, foreign outposts extending the Lodge’s reach into Miragliano, Tobaro, and Kislev. Each of these cities has a small but proud Halfling district (or kleinmoot, as they are known in the Empire), and each such district boasts a fine Lodge house. From these buildings, the Lodge orchestrates its endless campaigns, but the Lodge itself has no real need of a home base. It is part of the fabric of Halfling society: its successes are shared by Halflings everywhere, and its enemies — so the Lodge says, at least — are the enemies of all right-thinking Halflings.
- Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Shades of Empire (pg. 99-101).