Halfisle is a mostly wild peninsula of cedar bogs and sandy open fens and square, white, green-capped bluffs, each a suggestion of a bay just beyond. It rises north from Daybreak and separates the Cauldron from the wide open sea.
"I read a play about Halfisle, once. The old elite of Daybreak, it was their backyard. A sweet place. Bucolic. For all I know, it still is.
"It is a land of cherries and pancakes and sugar shacks where sap is boiled in spring. Where inland lakes freeze, come winter, and the locals skate on bladed boots and cut holes in the ice to fish for bluegill and walleye and pike. Artists sick of the squalor of Daybreak come to paint the ships and steeples and worn white bluffs of Halfisle. It is, I think, a thistleberry pie on the windowsill sort of country."
Primtoe, the closest cottage town to Daybreak, is the unfashionable person's idea of a fashionable place to go. It's not uncomfortable, or unpleseant, or ugly. It's clean. It's easy. But why would you play at something when you could do the real thing?
Frid is nice. There's a little babbling creek and a beach of smooth white stones and sailboats at bouys in the bay. The baker's name is Arms Delilah, and the bread she makes can be smelled across town. A painter, Louie Lousef, brings a fresh baguette to the end of the town dock every morning, where he paints the sun come up.
Unlike most harbors on Halfisle, Port Cherry is still functional. Lobster pots and floats and weights line the docks. Fishermen in skifs and skips and doggers and trawlers leave late in the evening and return with the rising sun and a netfull of whitefish or haddock or, sometimes, nothing.
The Port Cherry Market is the largest on Halfisle. All the fish of the day, produce from the inland farms, furniture, weavings, tonics, pies, all can be found under the sagging roof of Market Hall. The old barn has seen many summers, and drooped at the weight of the snow of many winters, but it stands still. At night, the hall is host to dancing and drinking, gamboling and gambling, hooting and hollering, in the form of the venerable Port Cherry Social Club.
Dore is a quiet town of steeples and masts and cedar-shingle roofs. It is known as an artists' haven, full of woodworkers and painters and throwers of clay.
The northernmost town on the Cauldronside, Hart Harbor is nestled in a high, stoney, south-facing bay. It is hidden from the brunt of the wind by the Bluebluff, a blueish-white promontory with a little red lighthouse on top.
In the dead center of Halfisle is Grimble, the only inland town of any real size. It's mostly a bank and a bar and cheap bed for travelers. Folk who live on the coast like to say that Grimble means grumble, for they have no view of the sea, but the people there are happy enough.
The long way into the Cauldron creeps around Halfisle Head, the northernmost point of the peninsula. It forms the southern shore of the Strait Away. There's battered old dock where the ferry used to land, and an old rock-brick lantern-house, and a long beach of white dolomite slabs like steps into the strait. Now, the ferries to Hetch and the Uphills leave from Hart Harbor.
The Driftwood Coast
The open shore of Halfisle is rougher than the Cauldronside. The blocky cliffs are less magestic, there, and the cedars that lean out over the water are more gnarled and bent. Stretches of that coast are known for the knots of driftwood that accumulate, wrapped and strung along the rock and the roots of the still-alive trees. From the water, the driftwood can look like the cliff itself, an exoskeleton, a painted mask.
Gnomes, or something like gnomes, carve nests from the driftwood on the side of the rock. In summer they hang just above the water, licked by sea spray, and in winter they perch high above the icy waves. Little is known about this people. They are reclusive and skittish to outsiders, and the homes they build in the driftwood mess are stable only for creatures of their size. It has been reported, however, that they have doormats and coat hooks and upholstered chairs, so they are doing very well for themselves, thank you very much.
The open shore of Halfisle is wild, brambled and empty compared to the western side. Hisk is the only town, and the forest road there is scrappy and narrow. The town itself, too, has a scrappy character, and they scoff, mostly playfully, at the calm and the ease of the Cauldronside.