4 The Hafling Benevolent Society

The HBA is an organization that serves the interests of Freeport’s halfling population. It does everything in its power to protect them from being exploited by their stronger neighbors, a problem that is even more prevalent in Freeport than in most other places.

History
Founded over a hundred years ago, the Halfling Benevolent Association (HBA) began as an effort to protect Freeport’s smallest citizens from injustice at the hands (and feet) of the larger races. The HBA used money to buy clout with the city’s powers. Once the organization was established, it was able to provide loans to members to purchase and build homes and businesses. Donations from the HBA’s success stories, plus some prudent investments, allowed the organization to prosper and grow. For a time, there was even a militia (known derisively as the “Short Swords” by other Easterners), but the HBA leadership decided it was more expedient to simply hire bodyguards when needed.

It was only a matter of time before some enterprising halflings tried to take advantage of the HBA to get rich. Thirty years ago, a group of ambitious entrepreneurs took over the organization. They used the treasury of the HBA to bankroll a huge convoy to Amador. If all went according to plan, the rare commodities they imported would triple their money. The journey took over six months, but it seemed that the convoy was going to make it. They were but a day’s sail from Freeport when disaster struck. They were caught in a freak squall, and the heavily laden merchant ships were swamped or driven into nearby reefs. In the end, only a single ship made it back to the port. The rest were destroyed and the cargo lost.

The next five years were hard for the HBA. The organization was nearly bankrupt, and it lost its influence quickly. Soon, a criminal gang was preying on halflings, breaking into their homes and robbing them on the streets. The gang then began to prey on other Easterners. The whole district was soon beset, and it seemed only a matter of time before it became another Scurvytown. It was at this point Finn appeared in Freeport. He purchased the HBA for practically nothing, rebuilt the organization, and then went toe to toe with the gang that had been plaguing the Eastern District. Many bodies hit the cobblestones, and within a year, Finn had driven them out of Freeport entirely, never to return.

Description
The HBA’s headquarters is a large, two-story building in the center of the Eastern District, right on the Field of Honor. Made of brick and spurning ostentation, the building, like Finn, is all business. The building is filled with offices of various HBA officials, and visitors from domestic and foreign contacts can always be found. Visitors to the HBA come and go all hours of the day and night on business legitimate and otherwise.

Prominent NPCs
Finn: Finn is well into middle age, but he has avoided developing the paunch so common to his people. He remains thin and lithe and his reflexes are lightning-quick. He maintains an enormous, ever-changing wardrobe, ranging from near rags to the height of garishness. When people meet Finn for the first time, they are often surprised to find out what an agreeable fellow he is. He smiles frequently and always has a jest ready. His sarcasm and quick wit are indeed legendary throughout the Eastern District.

When Finn was younger, he had the good humor and devil-may- care attitude common to his people. Though a rogue to be sure, Finn joined an adventuring band and distinguished himself repeatedly over the course of several years. Indeed, half a world away from Freeport, Finn is still known as a hero. Such heroism, however, had its price. Finn watched his best friends die in the defense of a small outpost called Lonely Shore, during which he had nearly every bone in his body broken when a demon threw him through a wall. He survived thanks to the timely application of healing magic, but while he recovered physically, no spell could regenerate his spirit after that day.

Twenty-five years ago, Finn came to Freeport. He felt he had given enough to the world, and it was time for him to take care of himself. At that time, a crime wave was crippling the Eastern District. Sensing opportunity, he used the loot from his adventuring days to take over the Halfling Benevolent Association and build up a group of followers. He then went toe-to-toe with the gangs of thieves terrorizing the Eastern District. His gang bloodied them to such a degree they all left the district and never returned.

Orm Redleap: Orm is the most visible member of the HBA in public. He is small, even for a halfling, but as one of Finn’s key lieutenants, he is untouchable in the Eastern District. He spends most of his time in the HBA offices managing the Syndicate’s finances. He has a weakness for gaudy jewelry, and his hands are always heavy with finely made rings.

Trask: Trask is another of Finn’s lieutenants. He is responsible for security, which is an important concern for halflings in a city as rough as Freeport. The halflings in the District know that Trask will ensure revenge for injustices inflicted upon them, and so are generally willing to pay him the money needed to hire some "additional assistance".

Portia Poorbelly: Loud, arrogant and self-centered, Portia is surely the world's fattest halfling. She is carried about on a litter, while wearing ostentatious golden robes, jewels, perfume and make-up. Her voice is deep and wheezy, and she usually wears a wig. She has been a loyal supporter of the HBA for many years, and periodically throws lavish feasts for the organization's senior members. Despite her generosity, rumors occasionally circulate about her strange menus, as well as the fact no-one remembers her ever looking younger than she does now.

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