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Rise and Fall of the Halfling Republic: Part V of VI

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[!] A fresh pamphlet is pinned to the Bramblebury notice board!
The Rise and Fall of the Halfling Republic


A History of the Halflings from 1786-1818



Chapter V: Great Again?

The closing days of Iris Peregrin’s term as Mayor of Bramblebury marked the midpoint of a unique period in halfling history; it was a time when the Peregrins were approaching the height of their influence on the village, which for some meant an era of festivities and good feelings, and for others an age of austerity and nonacceptance. Though the constitution had guaranteed all the same rights to improper halflings as proper halflings, the social stigma associated with breaking tradition was enough to keep most impropers “in the closet.” Nobody was ever arrested for being improper, but almost nobody was willing to admit that they were either. I still owned a sword and continued to carry it with me whenever I left the village, it was kept hidden in the burrow at any other time, and if asked I would have said I had gotten rid of it. 


In the few cases in which some halflings were unfortunate enough to do something improper out in the open, the punishments they faced were not too harsh; nothing much worse than harassment and social discrimination. However, though this manner of repression was quite tame compared to the sort of violence that happens to nonconformists in Oren or Haelun’or, it was still a far cry from the free society I had envisioned. The Peregrins would not soon give up the cultural crusade they had started in Bloomerville. Besides, considering how much good Iris had done for the village, most halflings, myself included, were willing to go along with all this, even if only to keep the peace. Hiding one’s improperness has always been fashionable, so for the majority of halflings, those who had not been openly improper prior to the Peregrins’ arrival anyway, nothing had changed at all.


~A Bonfire in Bramblebury; 1804~


Before going any deeper into this chapter, however, it is important to remember that the Peregrins truly believed that enforcing properness like this was good for the village. Halfling conservatism as the Peregrins practiced it was very much focused on maintaining a uniquely halfling cultural identity. Anything improper or biggun-like was considered a threat; a slippery slope that could lead to the halflings losing sight of who we are. Considering what Iris found upon her arrival in Fort Hope in 1792, to some degree I can understand why the conservatives thought maintaining properness was so important, however she and her family had not been present back in Brandybrook, where the idea that proper and openly improper halflings can coexist peacefully was taken for granted; at least after Sheriff Alfie Greenholm resigned. Sean Puddlefoot, Benedict Hassenfort, and Anne Applebrook were all famously relaxed in their adherence to halfling tradition, but from what I’ve heard they were all well respected people in Brandybrook. Their presence did not make Brandybrook’s proper halflings any less proper, nor did it cause any doubt in anyone’s mind that we were all still halflings. 


As much as I disagreed with the Peregrin stance on properness, however, the main aspect of their political agenda that worried me was the notion that a Peregrin needed to be in power at all times. The Mayorship was not a royal title to be handed from one member of a family to the another, but given Iris’ endorsement of her cousin Onelia that seemed to be exactly what was meant to happen. The fact that another Peregrin would be running combined with the strict degree to which properness had been enforced and lingering memory of the vitriolic response to the constitution dissuaded me from running in the Mayoral Election of 1805. I was rather surprised when my wife Kerraline, who had never been involved in politics before, announced that she would be running for Mayor; but I gave her all the encouragement she needed. Kerra did not have very strong or detailed political beliefs, but that didn’t matter; she was kind, capable, and most importantly trustworthy.



~A Poster Promoting Kerraline Goodbarrel; 1805~


That being said, I did not have a lot of confidence that Kerra would beat Onelia. She was not particularly active in village life, in fact for most part the only thing known about Kerra was that she was my wife, which, considering my reputation at the time, was not something that particularly helped her campaign. In fact, the only thing Kerra really did have to her name prior to the debates was the fact that she was not Onelia Peregrin. Though they may have been a minority, there were at least some people in the village who either thought the Peregrins were too strict about properness or simply didn’t get along with Onelia the way they got along with Iris. Unfortunately, the so-called “anti-Peregrin” vote I had predicted was immediately split by the entries of Rolladango Applefoot, a grandson of the old Thain Rollo Applefoot; and Burt Hassenfort, son of Benedict, into the race.



~A Poster Promoting Onelia Peregrin; 1805~


Though I knew these new candidates would probably take votes away from Kerra, it was also quite probable that they would take votes away from Onelia as well. Ignoring the Peregrins’ belief that the concept of Thainship was out of keeping with halfling tradition, Rollo was a famously proper halfling who purportedly “saved the race”, and thus a good name for Rolladango to tie to himself to if he were to seek the propers’ vote. Though Burt had his name tied to Benedict, he was, as far as I know, a  proper halfling who had gone along with the Peregrins’ cultural crusade. It seemed that the Election of 1805 was going to be quite close, and it was something that, despite my informal retirement from politics, I wanted to be as involved in as possible, so I volunteered to monitor the debates.



~A Poster Promoting Rolladango Applefoot; 1805~


I wasn't terribly disappointed when Rolladango very suddenly announced that he would be dropping out of the election on account of not being able to make it to our scheduled debate on the 1st of the First Seed, 1805. If anything, I was relieved. As silent as they had been over the past few years I knew there was still a sizeable population of Bernardists in Bramblebury who would eagerly support an Applefoot. The confiscation of the so-called “Thain’s shovel” from Isalie by “Lord Knox” back in 1798 was still fresh in my mind, and I worried that should Rolladango win he might attempt to overthrow her. For all the safety-nets I had written into the constitution I knew that ultimately so few of the people cared about it that an untrustworthy candidate such as Rolladango could get away with practically anything. Besides, the only interaction I ever had with the man occurred when he was still a tween, prone to rage and violence; it was not the image of someone who should be trusted with the reigns of government. 



~A Poster Promoting Burt Hassenfort; 1805~


The debate itself did not reveal much, except perhaps the fact that the Peregrins’ influence on the village had become so great that to even suggest that one may be alright with improperness was tantamount to political suicide. In fact, the window of what was considered “acceptable politics” in the Peregrin Era had become so small that there was hardly any debate between Burt, Onelia, and Kerra at all! My wife even admitted to me later on that she had modified her answers to the questions based on what the other two had said.


Whether planned in advance or not, what happened as a result of all three candidates giving very similar answers was quite astonishing. Throughout the debate, the audience had been very chatty, throwing in a comment at every pause and treating the whole thing like much more of a spectacle than it actually was. As the debate began to wind down, however, the ill-timed humor turned into serious discussion about how all three of the candidates were wonderful. Then, quite suddenly, Monkey Peregrin and Perry Overhill suggested that we elect all three candidates as Elders. The audience immediately burst into discussion over the idea, much to the fright and confusion of Thain Isalie Gardner. Even as I tried to explain to the crowd that it was unconstitutional to just go ahead and create an Elder Council, and that we had no framework for how such a thing would work, they seemed dead set on it getting approved right then and right there. 



~The Debate; 1805~


I recall feeling absolutely awful for Isalie as she moved on to the stage to address this crowd, which was perhaps better described as a mob; certainly not a violent mob, mind you, but an unruly gathering nonetheless. Once again, the accusations of Isalie trying to enforce her will, and by extension mine, on the village were thrown at her. Once again, the notion that our constitution was a sacred document which needed to be preserved and followed was labeled “biggun-talk”. And once again, Isalie only had me to turn to for advice.

Though I did a better job of hiding it, I was just as worried and confused as Isalie was that day. It seemed the entire village wanted this Elder system to be put into effect, who were I and Isalie to try and stop it? Pulling her aside and speaking in whispers, I told her as much, and said also that it would be advisable for her to follow the mob’s wishes and postpone the election until after the constitution had been amended. Having written the constitution, I knew full well that this was illegal, but I feared what might happen if Isalie and I angered the mob further. A change in government seemed inevitable; if it was what the people wanted then I thought the only way to ensure that this transition of power occurred in an orderly manner was to work with the mob. Isalie, unfortunately, took my unwise words for wisdom, and announced that the election would be postponed until after a meeting was held to determine the future of village government. Though I recall walking away from that debate feeling as if the situation was under my control, looking back I would say the 1st of the First Seed, 1805, was the day democracy in Bramblebury began to make way for mob rule; I was simply too naive to know the difference.



~The Thain Watches the Debate; 1805~


I must admit that my main motivation for working with the proponents of the Elder system was to keep the future of our republic under my control. It was not because I wanted power within this new government but rather that I feared, should the conservatives be allowed to design a new constitution however they like, it would either be immensely flawed or entirely nonexistent. This was a chance to write a constitution that the village actually agreed with; a chance to redeem myself in the eyes of the public, and to create a more perfect system that I thought could serve our people for generations. I had come to the rather flawed conclusion that, in a democracy, the majority is always right . I suppose I did not understand at the time that a mob is no less of a mob for being on your side.


The most hated aspect of the 1797 constitution was the inclusion of a system of checks and balances that ensured that neither the Thain nor the Mayor nor the Sheriff had too much power. This had been functioning just fine, but it was much too “biggun-like” for the conservatives. Having three Elders instead of just one Mayor would only complicate things further. It did not take long for me to realize that a three Elder system and a Thainship were mutually exclusive. Though she never said anything about quitting, ever since the days of Bloomerville, Isalie had occasionally expressed to me how tiring her job was. She always felt that people hated her, and sometimes questioned if perhaps someone else would do better in her position. I thought she had served us wonderfully, and she was my closest friend besides Kerra, but the proverbial wind was not blowing in her direction. When given the choice between Isalie and a peaceful and orderly village, I felt compelled to choose the latter, and in the next issue of the Bramblebury Gazette I published a plan for a simpler constitution that provided for a government with three Elders of equal power and a Sheriff with only law enforcement authorities; this was met with much praise from the conservatives.



~A Busy Day in Bramblebury; 1806~


When I walked into the village meeting Isalie had called in order to discuss revising the constitution on the 21st of the Deep Cold, 1805, I believed that everyone, Isalie included, had read the latest edition of the Bramblebury Gazette and were prepared to discuss the proposal I had included in it. That was not a wise assumption to make, however. I was somewhat confused as Isalie addressed the audience about bringing back Elders and creating a sort of militia called the Bounders to assist the Sheriff in their duties. After a bit of back and forth about Bounders, I recall beginning to wonder if anyone there was going to address the elephant in the room. But nobody brought it up; I had to do it myself.


The fact Isalie had apparently not read my government proposal meant that she was totally unprepared to hear that the village was thinking about having her step down. I knew this, and I knew also that she would probably take it personally, and she did. I recall seeing this awful look of betrayal on her face as she asked me if I really thought her leadership was that horrible. Apart from a little bit of chatter from Filibert Applefoot and some kind words from my wife Kerra, the crowd gathered was mostly silent as I tried to explain to Isalie in the kindest terms possible that it was time for her to step down. Isalie simply burst into tears, saying something along the lines of it all being my hands now. As I looked back into the crowd, which was devoid of any emotion, I had a very strange and uneasy feeling, as if the eyes of history itself were staring down at me. It had been the desire of the Peregrins and the other conservatives to restore the Elder system and end the Thainship for quite some time, but when it actually happened they had hardly lifted a finger or said a word. That was left to me. And I did it not because I wanted to get rid of Isalie but because I was afraid of letting a mob rewrite the constitution. And yet, that is exactly what I let them do. The new constitution wasn’t inspired by my own wisdom but by the passions of the people, and I walked home thinking I had done the right thing; any shame I had was because my best friend felt I had betrayed her, not because I had betrayed my own revolution. It would take a long time for me to realize just how damaging the so-called “Revolution” of 1806 really was.



~The Old Thain Reflects; 1807~


Though the 1797 Constitution required a 2/3rds majority of the voters to approve amendments to the constitution, no such vote was held. As was evident by my ill-conceived advice to Isalie, I had totally given up on preserving the sanctity of our constitution, and I didn't want to bother Isalie any further. All that legitimized the new constitution I wrote in 1806 were signatures from Isalie, Iris, Meemaw, and a few other halflings in the village. Technically speaking, that means every election and decree that was issued under the Elder system was illegitimate, but nobody cared. Law can be a tricky thing to understand at times, and my fellow halflings had no patience for it.


Though I did not seek my wife’s position as a candidate in the 1806 Elder Election, seeing as it was illegal for people married to each other to serve on the Council of Elders at the same time; I was quick to notice that I was, for the first time in my entire career, becoming popular, and decided to cement it further by revising the Goodbarrelian Manifesto to make it look like I had wholehearted support for the Elder-system and properness. Even though I would not run for Elder for another 8 years, I finally had the Peregrins’ confidence, and in an election that was all that mattered. Being a large family with many friends, the abolishing of the office of Thain meant that the Peregrins had practically uncontested control of the republic.  Nobody could be elected Elder without their support. “King” Cyris Collingwood tried to run for Elder at the last minute too, but he received not a single vote, even though each voter was allowed to cast three. The results were exactly as projected; Onelia, Kerra, and Burt became the first Elders of Bramblebury.


~The 1806 Bramblebury Elder Election~


With how dramatically and negatively I have described the transition to an Elder system, one might question why exactly returning to that old form of government was so bad. Peregrin control over elections aside, the problems of an Elder system were not immediately obvious. Few outside the Gardner family were upset by Isalie’s fall from power. Her popularity had been damaged not only by past events during Brandybrook, Bloomerville, and the Knoxist Crisis but also by more recent things such as her marriage to a biggun (the Warden), and her proposals for the construction of biggun living quarters in the village.



~The Wedding of the Thain and the Warden; 1805~


Following the “Revolution” of 1806, the village seemed to go back to how it was when Iris was Mayor, if not better; with all manner of festivals, weddings, cooking contests, bakery openings, and birthday parties. Tavern nights continued to be held, the library received a great number of donations, Filibert started up a new newspaper, and a whole new district was constructed in the village known as Bloomerville Square, which harkened back to what the Peregrins considered one the best time in our recent history. For anyone who was proper or at least pretending to be, it was a fine time to live in Bramblebury. For those who were not included in that “proper” halfling majority, however, the Bramblebury of the Peregrin-Goodbarrel-Hassenfort years was not quite so pleasant. In one instance, a late biggun friend of mine and her Sorvian were essentially robbed by a couple of “proper” halflings for no reason other than the fact that she was a biggun. In another instance, one that I am, admittedly, guilty of being involved in, a biggun was told he could only stay in the village if he cast off his shoes and worked the fields for us. Perry even wrote an open letter criticizing an organization promoting racial justice. “Biggun Realism”, as he called it, was in full force, and seeing as the constitution protected only the rights of halflings, there was nothing that could be done about it. 


Even though improper halflings were legally protected under the constitution, that did not protect them from being disowned by their families or otherwise turned into outcasts. Known improper halflings only continued to have it worse as the village started to become a somewhat unpleasant place for anyone who didn’t seem to be a proper halfling to live; one improper halfling even finding herself fighting a duel against a Peregrin! The wholesome presence of Iris was often missing as she began to spend more time pursuing her studies with the Druidic Order rather than lounging about the village. As for Isalie, she became far less reserved in her words and actions after retiring, often getting into fights with Onelia, Filibert, and other people she had not gotten along with. Sheriff Meemaw Applebottom, her health not being the best at her age, was hardly ever seen, and was certainly not patrolling often enough to keep things calm. In the early 1810s there would even be a series of horrific “murders.” Though all the presumed victims later turned up alive, these unsolved cases certainly cast a poor light on Meemaw’s tenure as Sheriff, and helped encourage her eventual resignation due to health reasons. 



 ~Aftermath of a Murder; 1811~


The rancidity of this “perfect society” we had created was not limited only to the experience of “improper” halflings and bigguns; in fact, I’d argue much of it stemmed from the immense flaws within the new Elder-system. As it turned out, the absence of the separation of powers and checks and balances that had made the old constitution so reviled were the very thing that made the new constitution so ineffective. In my quest to “simplify” it for the public, I had removed any semblance of instruction on how Elders were supposed to interact with each other, with the only specifications being that they were all supposed to be of equal power and that only some decisions required unanimous approval. I cannot blame Onelia for misinterpreting the constitution considering there was practically nothing there to interpret, but that does not really excuse the fact that she often acted as if she were the sole leader of the village, though I don’t recall writing that not speaking with your fellow Elders on a daily basis allows you to assume the powers of a Thain anywhere in the constitution. At first, Onelia’s approach to the office of Elder was not a terribly large problem; though it did allow her to create the Bramblebury Fire Department; which would cause a fiasco and half several years later. No, Onelia’s approach to Eldership became a problem when she began conducting “diplomacy” on behalf of her other Elders; which is to say that she went behind their backs to trod upon our alliance with Elvenesse to the point of its near destruction.


The Halfling-Elvensse Crisis began when a diplomat from Haelun’or arrived in the village to arrange an audience between the high elven Silver Council and the halfling Council of Elders. Though the purpose of this meeting was not explicitly stated in my presence, it did not take a lot of sleuth work to figure out that the high elves were seeking to establish good relations with the halflings as they prepared for war against our protectors in Elvenesse. I recall feeling very frustrated at my inability to get involved; but thankfully this initial meeting was handled by Kerra quite well. She made it clear that Bramblebury had no intention of betraying Elvenesse or otherwise getting involved in an unnecessary biggun war.


~Halfling Negotiations; 1810~


Unfortunately, that was not how Elvenesse perceived that meeting as rumors spread among their leadership that the halflings of Bramblbeury may be seeking independence from Elvenesse, or worse, that we were conspiring to aid the Silver State against them. It was not only these rumors of conspiracy that worried Elvenesse, however. Allegedly, Onelia marched down to Elvenesse' capital Amathea one day, badmouthed their council, and slapped their High Princess in the face. What followed was a diplomatic scandal; though I would not have known of it had my wife not told me. Within months Bramblebury was flooded with all manner of dignitaries from Haense and the like practically begging for us to join them. Apparently a rumor was spreading like wildfire among the biggun leaders of the world that the halflings were seeking separation from Elvenesse, when in reality only one of our three elected Elders had done anything to indicate that.


~Breakfast at the Bakery; 1812~


The situation was only made worse by the fact that Burt had fallen ill in Malin’s Welcome 1811, forcing him to resign from the office of Elder. It was during some of the most crucial moments of this crisis that the only check on Onelia’s power was Kerra, who Onelia, for some odd reason, thought had disappeared and never even bothered to send a bird to. Though the constitution required that an emergency election be held in the event of a vacancy in the Council of Elders, Isalie was given the position without a vote on account of being the only person who signed up; though she viewed it more as a favor for the village than coming out of retirement. All the same, with Isalie and Kerra on the council together an opportunity arose to oust Onelia, but between the likelihood that the people would not vote in favor of her removal of office, Iris’ unwillingness to take Onelia’s position due in part to her devotion to the Druids, and the fact that the Election of 1814 was just around the corner; nothing came of the plan.


It was only at this point in 1813 that Kerra actually told me everything that was going on, positing that perhaps I could write a special edition of the Bramblebury Gazette critiquing Onelia’s conduct and perhaps dissuading the people from voting for her in the next election. That, however, was quickly rendered unnecessary when Onelia announced that she would not be seeking reelection and instead would be endorsing her cousin James Peregrin, one of the adopted sons of Iris. Isalie was quite sick of what the village had turned into and, despite the fact that our friendship had been repaired, was likely still upset about the “Revolution” of 1806, so she resigned her office and left the village with the Warden before her term as temporary Elder was even finished. In her place, her adopted daughter Winter, also a good friend of mine, ran for Elder. After a brief discussion my wife also decided not to seek reelection, and so, in 1814, I finally came out of my “retirement” to officially lead the village once again. 



~A Poster Promoting Greta Goodbarrel; 1814~

Though Kerra had told me quite a bit about Onelia’s misconduct as Elder, and though I had heard some unpleasant stories about the village from other friends of mine, I still believed at the time that our republic was functioning just fine, and had just happened to elect the wrong person. I had become so accustomed to being on the Peregrins’ good side that I had forgotten how unpleasant it was to go against them. I thought the problems of the village were things that I could solve just by becoming an Elder. I had yet to uncover the unfortunate truth that the “perfect” Elder system I had created did not, as Onelia promised, “make the halflings great again.” It had only made the already existing divisions among our people much worse. It would take being right in the fray of this dysfunctional government for me to realize that our republic, if not already in ruins, was on its deathbed.

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((  "This was only made worse by Onelia’s pro-Haelun’or stance. For as much as she disliked bigguns, she didn’t seem to have any problem with hopping into Haelun’or’s pocket." Any Haelun'or RP I had at that time was voided other than one meeting Onelia and Kerra had, where she told them she didn't need biggun help. Onelia dislikes all bigguns and never blatantly said anything about Haelun'or to you or the other halflings. I did say things OOCly about land offers if that's what you're talking about? This seems kind of like meta-game and I'd appreciate that you edited it or at least quoted the RP that gave Greta this impression. :) Thanks. ))

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