Baron Woodlew, peer of the Kadana Circle of the Kingdom of Basir (a fancy, Coastie name for third cousin of the King with nothing but a simple barony and a keep, but possessed of enough clout within the extended family to get invited to royal affairs on any occasion of note) was widely considered to be a just and reasonable constable of his people and territory. And, prudent as anyone can be in these times of war on the borderlands, he made his contribution to his nation and king and empire and emperor in modest, but effective ways.
While any Duke could field an army, Tristan Woodlew (himself not native of Kalamar, but rather of an offshoot of the royal line that took his grandparents off to Pel Brolenon and his parents back to the Empire), was short on troops and money to pay for them even if he had them. What he was rich in, however, was refugees and wanderers from either the skirmishes with the Young Kingdoms to the North or the mountain clans of the West. They came, always, to find passage somewhere else or work to do. Dodera would not have them. Kalamar would only conscript them, Tokis would fight a three day battle all around them, so it was left to Basir to see them off and the poorer landowners to find what use they could of them.
Baron Woodlew’s use was paying (cheaply) for the more capable transients to beat up, run off, apprehend, or kill the ones that broke the laws or threatened his lands. In lieu of a company of good soldiers, he defended his corner of the kingdom with paid mercenaries and adventurers. The crown was pleased. Kalamar was pleased. All profited.
For a few years, one group of transplants came to be more relied on than most. They had no collective name, most just knew them as Woodlew’s boys. And they were mostly just boys, as well. Not a one of them much older than twenty—Bast, in particular, barely out of puberty. For a few coins, they would fetch this or that, send messages, even beat up a criminal or two. Odom, the thief, was as close to a leader as the group had. Baron Woodlew liked him the most—mostly because the rest were just enormously unsettling in general.
Natsu was an inscrutable thing from the mountains in the West. Dragonborn were not unheard of in the world, but if the Baron’s cleverest associates were to be believed, there were none in the days of the old empire and certainly none before it. Common folk were scared (rightly) of them, and Natsu was the only one he ever met. Quiet. Often silent. Huge. Half-naked, but civilized to a severe degree—that by itself would make for awkward conversation were it not for the occasional joke or foolish moment (at least what it thought was a joke, clearly). It was like watching a rock chuckle to itself because it thought being wet with rain was hilarious.
Bast bore the horns of a demon and the skin of a fiend. In the old days, he would have been hounded out of these lands and likely murdered in the next ones. But, the world was not as it was—and things like him, men born of the seed of outside creatures—were not necessarily evil. To the contrary, compared to truly horrible things like orcs and hobgoblin soldiers and dwarvish terrorists, Bast—despite his red skin and odd manner—was a charming and witty person. He consorted with arcane powers, clearly, but never did any evil magicks that the Baron ever saw or heard. In truth, the children liked him and the smallfolk learned to treat him respectfully. Despite all of that, the tiefling often made social feau-pas and was never particularly interested in taking or giving orders.
One would think the human was better—Tristan of some temple Baron Woodlew had never heard of. A priest that seemed to eschew his own god, and occasionally appear to have forgotten which he’d worshipped at all. He was charming, but a seemingly spoiled boy with the barest manners and the weakest grasp on responsibility.
It fell to the young, serious-minded Half-Orc, Odom, to whip these boys along a better path. It was Odom who scouted ahead, Odom who snuck into camps of criminals, and Odom who did most of the serious talking with the Baron. Hell, it was Odom who proved to be the only one of them to ever actually ask for anything in return for their work (besides spending coin). Baron Woodlew regretted never having helped Odom search for his father. In truth, he’d grown to like the somewhat free-spirited green boy a lot. More than was respectable for a peer.
So, when he’d gotten word that they’d died hunting a creature on a small island off the coast—at the border of the Baron’s lands (a task he’d set them to, himself), he began carrying some regrets. They’d done so much for him, so little asked in return, and what little asked he’d been unable to help with—and now, those he’d come to rely on were dead. And dead for so little—the hunting of a rumor. In the grand scheme of things, with wars going on in the North and pirates on the seas and very real famines rocking his lordly neighbors… well, Baron Tristan Woodlew found some time for self-reflection and liked what he saw very little. Middle-aged. Portly. Hardly rich. Hardly famous. The grandson of a near-traitor, the son of exiles, the low-lord of a few fields and the exploiter of children.
When Odom’s gang came back—reports had been wrong, only the priest had died (falling off of a cliff on an island without a name off the coast of a village without a name in the lands of a Baron without an important name)—the Baron released them from his service. They protested. He held. They were hurt. But they were boys. They saw only their adventure, he saw their future. To die falling from a cliff, drowning in a lake, hungry, ill, diseased, mauled by a bear… and all for no great reason.
Baron Woodlew lost his taste for his adventures-by-proxy with Odom’s gang and the remaining members—three demihumans in the Empire—went their separate ways.
Odom went back home to Bet Dodera. Bast followed, for no other reason than he seemed to have no home himself. Natsu went back to the mountains. The priest was buried in Woodlew’s lands. A marker placed. The Baron would go onto to take walks by it frequently, as a reminder to the sins of wasted youth.