Halkassa'Ruukil, Also known as Hilken
Table of Contents
- Physical Characteristics
- Society, Structures, and Community
- Economics and Politics
- Language and Names
- A Day in the Life of a Hilken
Halkassa'Ruukil, also called "Feral Hill Folk" or "Hilken," are members of a race that have been the subject of prejudice and stereotypes for generations. Though the hill folk wouldn't admit it, this reputation is partly deserved. Throughout the history of Forntol, the small folk have evolved from vaguely humanoid creatures with savage tendencies into humanoids who border on being called civilized.
No one in Forntol really knows the origins of the Halkassa'Ruukil, as the small creatures were present before any of the more civilized races ventured onto the continent's shores. In truth, the feral folk know little of their own beginnings, as they can only remember back to when they had begun to evolve. The original refugees from Farland likened the little creatures to a cross-breed between a Farlandish Halfling and a wolverine. From all evidence, this is not assumed to be far from the mark.
Through generations of gradual integration into civilization, the Halkassa'Ruukil have taken to more of their humanoid traits. Where the little folk had formerly stooped over and sometimes loped along on all fours, they now stand mostly upright, though with a slight hunch to their backs. And, as their teeth and nails still show sharp and hardened points, the hill folk have taken to keeping their natural weapons but using them only as a last resort.
Halkassa'Ruukil average 3 to 4 feet tall and typically weigh just under 50 pounds. As stated, most of the little folk have a slight arch or hump to their back from generations of stooping over to scramble on all fours. Their skin generally ranges from a pale red to a dull yellow, with a multitude of variations in between. There have even been reports of rare Hilken with stark white skin.
The eyes of a Halkassa'Ruukil are typically a pale yellow or brown, with vertical slits, much like the eyes of a reptile. Their eyes are long and narrow, set to either side of a wide, bulbous nose with large open nostrils that boast an incredible sense of smell. The ears of the hill folk are pointed and large, excellent for hearing any prey.
Though the Halkassa'Ruukil are rarely seen with definite facial hair, the bodies of the little humanoids are almost completely covered by a thin layer of hair. This covering was once much more pronounced and was thought to have been a dense fur. Now, after generations of becoming more civilized and wearing clothing, that fur has turned into a light covering that is only barely discernible from a distance.
Society, Structures, and Communities
The Halkassa'Ruukil, as their name implies, live in the foothills and low mountains of Forntol as a general rule. Recently, however, many of the small folk have ventured out of their traditional homes and become a part of the civilized society of the continent. Some now live in villages and cities from Vetemus all of the way to Sal'Baran.
As the Halkassa'Ruukil share the mountains and hills with the gnomes, they've come to develop a liking and a mutual respect for their small cousins. Thus, the home villages of Halkassa'Ruukil can generally be found close to gnome villages. As any of either race would tell you: "We lil' folk have to stick together."
Much in contrast with the tree-traipsing Kassa'melkuul, the Hilken prefer to remain in contact with the ground. Nearly all of their towns and villages lie in the low foothills about the base of the Forntol mountains. These communities tend to follow a history of isolationism, though more recent trends have brought the Hilken into closer contact with civilized Forntol.
Hilken villages rarely are walled or guarded by towns, as Hilken are not overly communal in nature. Only over the past few generations have the Hilken become civilized enough to gather into communities.
The standard Hilken home is designed to be functional, without any of the elaborate designs or vast spaces that the humans seem to use to mark their station. These homes are usually built of red clay bricks that have been formed and baked for several hours to solidify them. The brick huts are never larger than one or two divided rooms, as the Hilken believe in an open den for themselves and their young. Seldom will they sleep or eat in separate rooms.
Sometimes, when the clay of the earth is hard to come by or unusable, Hilken will build their small huts out of wood. They'll use dried thatch for their roofs and sometimes line them with dried animal skin for more insulation.
Lastly, some Hilken do not even build a hut but merely burrow into the side of a cliff or small hill for their homes. These natural homes can be seen in many of the Hilken communities, as this was the way of old, when the small humanoids made their dens in nature.
No more than a dozen Hilken communities can be found about Forntol, though there are many more Hilken that choose to live outside of their gathered brethren as lone families. These Hilken still adhere to the old ways, claiming that towns and villages are conventions created by the humans and are thus unnecessary.
The typical Hilken community consists of rings of smaller huts, called "Slooktas," which house the families. In the center of the rings are usually a few larger huts, sometimes as tall as two-stories. These may be called "Puruktas," or public buildings which deal with the politics and economy of the community; "Ovraktas," which are gathering houses for community functions, much like inns; and "Golktas," which are the Hilken's version of jails, typically with several cells for housing criminals. In reality, though, there aren't many laws that actually need to be enforced in the communities.
Buying and trading for the Halkassa'Ruukil typically takes place in large, open-air markets, which are also located within the central area. These markets, called "Bukis-tradas," roughly translated as "wide-open trade," consist of dozens or sometimes hundreds of open-air huts at which any of the Hilken can sell or trade for their livelihood.
As previously mentioned, Hilken villages have historically been open and unprotected, but this is a fact that has begun to change in the more dangerous present. With vicious natural enemies like apes, wolves, and frost giants, Hilken have begun to build actual fortifications around several of their larger, more prominent communities. These walls are typically made of the same baked clay bricks, but with sharpened stakes inserted between the coursings to form a bristling wall of protection about their homes.
The sewage and water systems in all but the most advanced Hilken villages is primitive at best. Their latrines are seldom more than large pits dug into the earth. Unfortunately, their water comes from much the same system. The Hilken found deep springs long ago and have managed to tap into their clean waters, while at the same time not polluting the water with their waste. Still, many dwarves will tell you not to drink the water when in a Hilken settlement.
Economics and Politics
Hilken have long sought to banish the stereotypes that plague their race, be they called cannibals, rabid animals, or merely uncivilized folk. Though they fight hard against such persecution, the trade and economy of a Halkassa'Ruukil settlement reflects the traits that brought about such assumptions.
First, Halkassa'Ruukil are well-known meat-eaters. This could be a nutritional need or could stem from historic cultural proclivities. In any event, Hilken have grown quite famous, or infamous (depending upon who one talks to), in their enjoyment of meat.
For that very reason, the Hilken's number one export is meat. Their communities are built up to protect and guard the ranches, which are often the most secure and defended areas of a Hilken commune. Cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, and hens-as well as many other types of animals-are the staple of Hilken diet and export. Their dried and cured meats are particularly sought after. Though many consider them uncivilized, the Hilken are still considered to be the most advanced and specialized in their preparation of meat and its by-products.
Another export that has grown in volume recently is Hilken pottery and earthenware. Their mastery of the kiln and its effect on the dark clay that seems to be in endless supply in the low hills of Forntol has given the Hilken a very marketable commodity in pottery, implements, and even jewelry made in their communities.
Politically, Hilken have had quite a difficult time of adjusting to the society of Forntol. Traditionally, a chief would be chosen among the Hilken community. Typically, this would be the strongest or smartest of the little humanoids, or could sometimes even come into power through the right of birth.
In generations past, this chief was little more than a powerful figurehead for the community. This position recently has taken on quite a bit more meaning, as the chief is now responsible not only for the ins and outs of business within the Hilken community, but also for the relations of the community with all of the other civilized lands of Forntol.
This newfound responsibility has proven at points to be advantageous, while at other points nearly disastrous. In any case, the Hilken understand that to be recognized as a viable and contributing race in society they must pass this final test and put a Hilken in power who can present the proper image for the entire race.
Language and Names
The language of the Halkassa'Ruukil is, to an outsider, nearly indistinguishable from the language of the Kassa'melkuul. In reality, however, these languages are quite different in form.
The Hilken language, much like its speakers, has its roots in a feral or animalistic lifestyle. With roots in such a nature, the Hilken language is formed by natural noises that have been adapted into a form of speech. Thus, many of the words of the language come from grunts, growls, chirps, or whistles. Indeed, these sounds are nearly indistinguishable from true animal noises to the uninitiated.
Hilken names are given by their parents, but the naming is typically done in response to some deed or action that the young Hilken have achieved. The Hilken's den or family name is given first and the given name is second. This is done only in formal conversation, of course; typically only the first name is used outside of the den.
Ahm, Ack, Arr
Bur, Boo, Bleck
Cur, Clack, Clip
Dun, Dom, Dek
En, Eck, Ewel
Gol, Geck, Gerr
Hip, Howell, Hart
The Halkassa'Ruukil, as many of the humanoids of Fortol do, primarily worship Bestra, the great goddess of nature, though they also revere the other gods. These little hill-dwellers, however, have a slightly different type of worship of Bestra.
Some say that finding their faith in Bestra was the catalyst that brought about the Hilkens' evolution from animals. Others say that their evolution was the catalyst that made Bestra take notice of their worship. In either case, one thing remains true: the Hilken now primarily worship Bestra in their evolved state.
This worship, through true and genuine, got off to a very rough start. The Hilken, unused to worshipping anything at all, were unsure of the proper way to pray. Thus, in the beginning, they used the only thing that they could think of: sacrifice. For years, Hilken took animal sacrifices, or sometimes even other Hilken, to the top of their clay ziggurats and gave them to Bestra in the hopes of appeasing their new mistress.
This practice continued for generations, as the Hilken thought that storms, quakes, and even plagues of insects were brought about by Bestra's unhappiness. It took years to trust the wise Teregnaven enough to take them at their word: that Bestra must maintain a balance, and her love for worshippers is unconditional and not reliant on the depth of their offering.
Since that time, Hilken have taken to more conventional worship, but the high clay ziggurats remain in many villages, a testament to the ways of old and a constant reminder of the progress that the race has made.
There are, of course, some Hilken that have taken to primarily worshipping other gods, as their beliefs differed from the norm.
A Day in the Life of a Hilken
A day in the life of the average Hilken is one of nearly constant toil. The small humanoids of the hills know very little in the form of leisure or entertainment. Mere generations before, the only concern of the Hilken was survival, the basest of all concerns. Now, generations later, the Hilken are finally learning and understanding what it means to have fun and enjoy oneself. Still, they must provide a great deal of goods for trade, as their towns and villages leave much to be desired.
Thus, a typical Hilken day begins in hours long before sunup. The men, women, and children will all toil in the fields, at the ranches, or near the kiln. Massive amounts of manure and waste are composted from the ranches, only to be used in fields for corn, wheat, and other grains. The ranches always require maintenance and repair, as literally tens of thousands of animals of a dozen different kinds roam the hilly pastures.
Every family, or den, has a kiln and spends the darkening hours of the day creating works for sale or utilitarian use. Bricks for repairs or sale back to the community, pottery for the household, and jewelry for the market all find their way into production during a typical day.
Though there's little time for enjoyment in the typical Hilken day, some, especially the children, will find their ways into the low mountains or to a nearby stream to hike, explore, or simply have fun. Also, gnomes have made it their racial mission to lighten up their ever so serious neighbors. Thus, gnomish entertainers, who are often considered to be the best in the world, frequently find their ways to Hilken communities to make merry.