The Patrols of the Methiz Halflings and the Mines in the Barren Lands
Once upon a time, before the times of fertile lands, and long before your great grandparents were babies, the stars fell day and night without ceasing. As the stars fell, they shone brightly in the sky—red during harvest time, white when the snows fell, and green during the growing time, just like the star showers today. Most of those falling stars never struck the ground, leaving only emblazoned trails across the day or night sky. Sometimes, though, as the stars burned in the sky, they left behind their metallic hearts. And sometimes their metallic hearts set fire to the trees—the heart of a star is very hot.
In those days, wonderful creatures half the size of a human called Methiz Halflings traveled in groups of dozens or scores, patrolling the prairies and barrens both east of the mountains in the Starshower Barrens and west of the forests in what we today call the plains. These halflings were strong and fast and they did not fear the falling stars, the dragons, the trolls or any of the other terrible beasts of the world. Because of their fearlessness, the halflings were willing to travel anywhere. They were the greatest explorers of the ancient times and they knew the forests as well as the goblins and trolls, they knew the mountains as well as the dwarves, they knew the prairies better than the grassland animals, and they knew the Starshower Barrens better than any except perhaps the mad creatures that came there from the stars.
There were creatures below ground other than the dwarves and goblins in those times. The goblins dwelled mostly beneath the forests and the dwarves mostly beneath the mountains. But beneath the prairies lurked all manner of tunneling creatures. West of the great river, the prairie in ancient days gave way to scrub lands that, while not as hostile as the Starshower Barrens, were themselves filled with ravenous scavengers and dangerous creatures. Many of those dangerous creatures could live as easily below or within the ground as they could above the ground. Some of the most dangerous could move through rock as easily as fish swim through water. Some of those creatures ate metal and stone. These creatures built lairs in what we today call the mines. They ate most of the metal and stone and left the coal. This, as we know, is a strange but welcome blessing.
The unflinching halflings followed those creatures into their lairs, such was their fearlessness and zeal for exploration. Centuries later, in the time between theirs and our own, the ancient civilization that dwelt even beneath the mines found some of the corpses of creatures that the halflings had killed in their rare moments when escape from a fight was not possible. Sadly, that ancient civilization discovered a few of the items of some of the halflings that, despite their fearlessness, fell to the brutal contests in those dark places.
And we know this because among the many ancient artifacts that the traders and storytellers speak of, some are precisely the proper size for the Methiz Halflings.