The Bayou Halflings are immigrants from the southeasternmost edge of the Ophel Highlands, from the village Torshire within the high crags and rocky pinnacles of its hillocks. The first Bayou Halflings lived at the edges of Dreadmire, within these foothills. They began to settle that area around 257 years ago, making a living fishing, farming, and/or trapping. Except for a few scrapes and scrimmages with hostile groups of giants, Creeps and wandering swamp monstrosities, these halflings lived in peace and comfort. They enjoyed good relations with the Marshfolk of the nearby Hillmarshes, who allied with them in battles and taught them a little about the nearby swampland. These halflings loved music and revelry, creating unique sounds and dances all their own.
However, the halflings’ security was shaken to the foundation 115 years ago, when an army of the Thalass Emirate made the long and perilous march around Dreadmire in order to annex their territory. Predictably, the halflings were not happy about this. Ranchers of the Thalass Emirate moved into the area and began clearing the lands to prevent the siege of the human city from being flanked by forces friendly to them. A notoriously cruel princeling made plans to expel Torshire residents. The king supplied the princeling with enough troops and weapons to confiscate their land, livestock, and homes. Most of the peaceful halflings escaped into Dreadmire, and the princeling decided not to waste energy chasing a halfling diaspora. He assumed they would die by disease, harsh environment, and hostile swamp creatures. This was a fairly accurate assumption, but not all were killed.
In the end, the conquest was a Pyrrhic victory. The Thalass Emirate’s settlers took over Torshire and had a rough year, inexperienced as they were in farming hill country. Before they could even plant another season, hill giants began rampaging and quickly ended the human colonization before it even started. During this time, a few halflings tried to sneak back to their old homes, but were caught either by giants or soldiers. No word of the fate of the human colonists reached the swamp for many years. About the time the halflings resigned themselves to their new swampland home, the giants finally exhausted all the resources in the hills and left for some other area to terrorize.
Once the trauma of relocation had subsided, all thoughts turned toward survival. Although a black dragon ate nearly 100 halflings the first week, the biggest problem was lack of food and fresh water. Nearly 80% of the 1,500 halflings died of hunger the first year, leaving only around 300 survivors. With this reduced number it became easier to feed the remaining mouths with the jellied masses of giant frog eggs clever halflings harvested from beneath the leaves of local flora. Attacks from "giant skeeters" prompted one halfling to create an herbal insect bite balm. The halflings were learning quickly how to survive inside swamp, but they were still dying.
The environment itself was not as deadly as the evil prince would have hoped, but it was still inhospitable. The halflings of Torshire had, for years, trapped and fished in Dreadmire. The first halflings quickly took to the trees, fortifying their lofts with nets and weapons. These forts worked well to deter monsters and other dangers, thus allow the halflings time to adapt. Life in the swamp is not pleasant. Halflings were frequently maimed either through attack or accident, often lacking limbs, eyes and other body parts. In the beginning, most Bayou Halflings were ill educated, grimy and portrayed a dismal and emotionally disconnected disposition.
It took nearly a century for other defensible communities to spring up on the banks of bayous, gathered in tree houses, groups of houseboats on bottomless pools, sod houses above dry holes, and in stilted wood shacks right on top of the quaking mires that make travel through the swamp treacherous. They built their own small single passenger boat, the pirogue (new watercraft), and used punts and poles in low water areas. Over generations these swamp vessels became perfected through trial and error, and now these Bayou Halflings are excellent shipwrights.
The Thalass Emirate government collapsed due to internecine struggles. The relaxed security on river travel has increased the Bayou Halflings’ ability to engage on sea shrimping, oyster harvesting and bay crabbing. The halflings are now unmolested by their southern neighbors, and have even started to trade with the new regime on a limited basis. Apparently, the educated and "enlightened" government considers halfling food a delicacy.