'Uncle Humblestaff?' the young hero responded. 'Of course I know the man. Wouldn't have had a chance at the academy without a word from him. He's the big guy over there, surrounded by all those adventurers.'
As a child, Drake Humblestaff had every advantage of wealth and power and a good family name. There were servants for the family servants. His great, great grandfather had been the amazing Drake 'Dragon Slayer' Humblestaff, the source of the family's fortunes. Everyone knew the family history, their wealth, and everyone wanted a piece of them. For many generations, however, the family had merely ridden on the fame of the ancestor.
One evening when Drake was a young man, he was at an Inn enjoying the company of many and listening to the tales spun by a bard, when his name sake's tale was told. The bard finished the tale and walked past the barkeep and over to Drake. Drake, thinking he knew what was what, pulled out a small bag of coins and held it out to the woman. Instead of taking the coins, however, the woman looked Drake square in the eyes and said, 'It's too bad that gold lasts longer than blood.'
'What's that supposed to mean?' Drake asked, quite put off.
She smiled condescendingly at him, something Drake was not accustomed to. 'You bear the man's name, his blood flows in your veins, his hard won gold is in your purse. But what are you? What have you done to deserve any of these things? My stories do not win me a share of Humblestaff's treasure, but I'll take your gold because it and my story are the only value left in your family.'
Drake was so stunned by this pronouncement that he just stood there as the woman took the small sack of gold and walked away.
The Failed Hero
Drake could not shake the bard's words. They gnawed at him, leaving him empty inside. After a month of feeling worthless despite all of his wealth, Drake determined to make something more of himself. He spent a year training in arms, trying to be a fighter. He learned to fight and wield every weapon given him, but he also learned enough to know that he did not have and special gift with the weapons of war. He tried his hand at magic, then stealth, everything, even learning a little of the bard's craft that had so inspired him. He was well liked by his trainers who all enjoyed his company and knew he came to them with a will and a drive to learn; each was pleased by his learning, but they were also honest with him. Drake was just didn't have what it took.
He even traveled on a few adventures. Drake was a beloved companion on journeys and not just because he could finance the needs of the group. Great heroes sought him out. Humblestaff was not a master of any power or heroic gift, but he could do a little bit of everything. He was an asset to every group, and many a hero came to owe their life to him, but he in turned owed his to them.
But after a two decades, he knew the hero's path was not for him.
Then, quite by accident, Drake found his real calling.
He was visiting the training grounds, watching young recruits being selected, when he noticed a boy standing apart from the rest. He was obviously a poor boy, with no armor nor weapons at his side more than a wooden sword that had been hardened in the fire. The weapon's master, a man Drake had been with in several tight pinches, walked past the boy without a second glance. The boy bowed his head and accepted the fact, but Drake threw a clod of dirt at his old friend, 'Mark, I'll bet you the cost of that boy's training he can take anyone of your candidates.'
The weapon master took the bet and chose the burliest brute he could.
'He's got a real sword and armor,' Drake's young man pointed out, 'And he's at least two heads taller than me.'
Drake shrugged. 'Observant, aren't you? Does he scare you?'
The boy squared his shoulders at that. 'I've fought bigger. Just doesn't make much sense, betting on me and all. I got nothing.'
'And he does. He's got everything. So he's got everything to lose, and you've got nothing to lose.' Humblestaff grinned at the boy. 'Except my respect.'
To his dying day, Mark the Weapon Master spoke of that fight as one of the greatest battles he had ever witnessed. The brute came in swinging, attempting to crush the smaller boy in a single hit. An hour later the fight still went on, the brute barely able to lift his own arms, the boy bleeding from a hundred small cuts but still attacking, circling, fighting. In the end, both boys collapsed and Humblestaff and the weapon master carried them both in to the healers for a rest while they argued about who really won.
Humblestaff went to the boy's bed side the next day when the boy was just waking up. 'We called it a draw. We're going to split the costs of your training, boy.'
'But I didn't win,' the boy said, shock in his voice.
'The hell you didn't,' Humblestaff said, a huge grin on his face. 'You came here to get a chance, and you've got it. Sounds like you won to me. You got a name, boy?'
'Fleche... just Fleche, sir.'
'Well, Fleche, you can call me Uncle Humblestaff.'
Fleche was the first of a hundred or more heroes Uncle Humblestaff sponsored and goded and pushed into the stories of bards. Though his wealth did dwindle over the years, Humblestaff became the patron of heroes. To his own surprise one day, Uncle Humblestaff was seated in that same old Inn when the same bard began singing a new song. It was the tale of many heroes, like a limerick, teasing and sometime bawdy, but in the chorus was the maker of heroes, 'Uncle Humblestaff.'
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? Responses (10)
Shut up and take my vote!!!
Seriously though, very nicely done. The only thing I don't love about that is the Humblestaff name. I don't have any better suggestions though.
A pleasure to read!
Aah, this tale warms my heart. I was expecting yoy to take the story one of two ways: Either have drake become a great adventurer, or have him comedically fail and become a bumbling 'tag-along'.that gets the group in trouble.
You took it a third direction and actually made Uncle Humblestaff an endearing character even though he has few skills. Good job, and an easy read.
While I find Uncle Humblestaff to be an endearing NPC like SE, I voted lower than the previous 2 b/c of the following:
1. While I see this as a complete and solid piece of work, the bit abt the bard's brush with Humblestaff seems to me sort of abrupt and strange. I'm almost expecting the bard to have some secret agenda or sth but instead she just fades into the bg. I mean, I'm not disputing the validity of the story of Humblestaff as you've written it up- the bard could just be a 'nosy' or up-front sort of person who goes around expressing her frank opinion of everything. But somehow I can't shake the feeling that this might be a 'loose end' in the sub. Having said that, though, I don't think this is the decisive part that turns me away from a vote of 4.
2. This might be my own interpretation issue (if so, I'm happy to revote on this piece) but I see the popularity/value of Humblestaff in an adventuring party to be inconsistent with his skill sets. In particular, you said 'Drake just didn't have what it took' which I took to be mean the following: Drake made enough progress to please his masters when he's learning things b/c he was diligent but he was basically just 'dumb' at them so that his masters think he really shouldn't aim to be any one of the typical adventurer classes. Is this what you meant to convey or do you want to say that he's not so 'dumb' at them but just that he would never be a master at any? If the latter, then that particular phrase I quoted is misleading.
Overall, I still like this sub and I hope you take my comments as constructive comments (they were meant to be).
Thanks for the feedback.
The bard is an interesting hole, I agree. She seems like a cheat. But that is leading my mind toward a new answer: she is, perhaps, a new NPC, perhaps a goddess. Someone who likes working behind the scenes, shadowy. She gave the man a push that changed so many others. I want to go there eventually.
As for Humblestaff's weakness, I think I did overstate it. I want him to be, in game terms, limited to about 3rd or 4th level, but having multi-classsed in every class possible. I'm afraid you're absolutely right: I failed to put that into the write up.
Normally, I do not like 'gods/goddesses behind the scenes' plots since I got sick and tired of them from reading fantasy trilogies from well-established authors but I actually quite like it in this instance b/c it's no longer all abt the titanic struggle b/w good and evil, just a tiny nudge that causes a rippling effect.
I agree. It seems like ever since Dragonlance with Fizban and Q from Star Trek NG, the interfering god character has been abused.
Just love Uncle Humblestaff. Well made NPC and very useful, still with some hints and ideas you can use as a hook for a story. For myself I just added in my notes his appearance to make him more complete.
Thanks for sharing this colorful character with us.
I would love to see your description.
Your wish is my command - nothing special only to round up the picture so to say. I hope it suits you.
Appearance of Drake Humblestaff - a proposal, awaits to be approved:
Despite his impressive size of 6' 1' he is unremarkable. His clothes are simple but of best quality, as are
the Longsword and Longknife he wars on his hips. He weights around 160 pounds, has brown straight hair and attentive blue eyes. This 45 year old man is always impeccable clean-shaven.
Well, this is very, very good. Those who can, do, those who can't - teach or in this case, inspire.