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."