Excerpts from the Journal of Lord Knowlern:
Finally we came upon the lair. After weeks seeking the source of the devastated farms and outlying homesteads, the source of the 'Smoke on the water...fire in the skies' rumors, we traced the creature back to the foul beast's mountain fastness. A dragon it was, red as the fires of Hell. We lost dear Jaseries and Reverier on the climb, at least three hundred feet of sheer cliff to enter the opening, but we made it, even those that fell to their certain deaths, did so silently so as not to give away our approach.
Alas, we bearded the beast in her own den. A mighty adult Red Dragon, raising a clutch of three spawn. Elexius' spells were of great use, and Patrick of the Evon Hand saved all our lives, though the battle cost both of theirs. The fight was of epic proportion, and though but three of us survived as I relate this tale, we were finally successful in defeating it, and slaying its foul offspring before they could terrorize our lands further. Now it is just Robbillard, picking through the horde, Everiliest, praying by the cave maw over our dead, and myself. I will make sure the families of all the fallen get their fair share when we return to my holdings.
A shout from Everiliest....it had a mate, I must....
Alas, this page was never found nor read, and was consumed in the great fires of the male Red that had returned to find his family slaughtered. The weakened Paladin, rogue and even mighty Lord Knowlern stood no chance against the well-rested and angered Red. None of their messengers got back, not a single survivor returned from the expedition, and thus his son found himself in charge of the House and estates. Alas, the Red did not feel that killing the murderers of his family was sufficient, and, recognizing the Lord's emblem, vowed to destroy every male of the Knowlern bloodline and see the name erased from history.
Many years later, destruction had once again returned to the lands around Cauldron, lands watched over by the Elven Nobles of the Knowlern House. In fact the beast had left a survivor this time, a man that came crawling before his Lord to deliver a message, "He wishes to face you Lord Knowlern, he says if you face him, win or lose, he will leave these lands in peace. As long as no male Knowlern draws breath, or he ceases to himself, he will leave these lands be."
As he was still a young elf, he had taken no wife, fathered no children, and though his sisters were terrified and encouraged him to hire what adventurers could be found, the young nobleman felt it was a point of honor to ride beside them. He was not the mighty swordsman his father had been, and fear hung heavy upon his heart on the ride outward. They stayed one night at a small inn at a crossroads, nearing the wasted village where they were to meet the beast. He and some of his men drank heartily, for many knew they would never see civilization again.
Few locals were there that night, for it was a morbid group, though the drink livened them some as the night wore on. It was a small elven community, and many came to wish their Lord well, but few held hope for his happy return. Towards the end of the evening, he was quite drunk, as was one of the two serving ladies left administering to the morbid party. A young and comely grey elf, and a sweet little wood elf lass like himself. The Grey Elf was quite sober, unable to partake in her gravid condition, as she found herself with child. The Wood Elf lass however, had been partaking of the free drinks rather wildly herself, it did tend to help tips when you party with the clients, and the innkeeper, always pleased by extra coins, did encourage them to be friendly. Whether it was the drink, the fact that it was a noble or the fact that it may be his last day on earth, whatever the reason, the young serving lass did her best to give her Lord a good send off and didn't climb out of the Lord's room until well after he rode off the next morning.
The Lord never returned. But when his body was found, disemboweled and burned, so was another mystery. Locked within his rigor clenched fist was Dagnir -o evil, a Magical Longsword, the bejewelled Knowlern House Emblem still emblazoned upon it's hilt. Last seen in the hands of the former Lord when he went missing.
Several months later, the Lady of Knowlern received a petitioner, an Elven innkeep from that very crossroads. She had ascended to Head of the House at a young age, and was still mourning the loss of her brother, for none had returned from the expedition to slay the dragon, and few remains were found. The only good news from that venture seemed to be the dragon, for though it clearly survived, it had been as good as its word and no longer predated Knowlern lands.
The Innkeeper doffed his hat and told his tale. A son had been born to one of his serving wenches, a child almost certainly from the loins of....
But he never got to finish his statement. The Lady of Knowlern knew well the words of the Red dragon, and she cut him short. Yelling to clear the room of all but her major domo and the innkeeper. Though he was almost certainly motivated by greed, the innkeep trembled in fear from her wrathful response, dropping to a knee as the room quickly cleared as petitioners and guards, noble and common alike were hurried from the Lady's presence.
The Innkeep left that room a humble man, sworn to secrecy and content with the monthly stipend that found its way to him from a human agent, who knew not what the money was for, nor why he delivered it. She never asked the boy's name nor age, and of the three, only one ever mentioned this secret again, had they all kept silent well, this story would have turned out quite different.
The lands by the Crossroads prospered over the next years. Without the former Lords business accumen, the Lady of Knowlern had opened a small stretch of land to foresters and a respectable farming community came to sprout. Though it was mostly human now, the Innkeeper seemed quite content with the new prosperity, and young Ciartos never wanted. Often the other serving wench was quite upset about the favoritism he seemed to show the Wood Elf and her child. At this point the young lad was a mewling and screaming brat, constantly upset and distracting, while her own Grey Elf toddler was the toast of the guests, he'd often charm his way into the laps of travellers and be fed from their plates, yet the innkeep clearly favored the younger boy.
This too could have passed in time. Save one night when the Innkeeper partook a bit overmuch and his bragging words found more than willing ears. The dragon had been true to his word, moving his predations far from the lands of Cauldron and it's environs, but his agents still stalked the lands. Coin flowed to a few that would follow the Knowlern House and report on its goings-on. And word got back to the drake that a Knowlern bastard son may reside in the small Crossroads town.
In a single night of misfortune, the small town was wiped off the face of the map. No warning was given and there were very few survivors. Less than a handful survived, mostly children were found in the wreckage by the Priests of St. Cuthbert when they arrived in the aftermath. First aid was given, and survivors were either reunited with distant family, relocated, or if under-aged, were adopted out.
The Sergeant of the rescue efforts was called before the Lady of Knowlern. "From the Inn? An Elf child? Yes...carrying." But he was not allowed to continue. She brusquely waved him to silence, and then had him change some documents for her and swear a vow of silence on the matter.
No elven children were rescued from that town according to the official record. None were recorded as having been adopted out. But a young Grey Elf by the name of Rennilon, bearing a smaller bundled up Wood Elf named Ciartos, were entered into the records of the Lantern Street Orphanage of Cauldron. According to the papers they were half-brothers whose parents had died at sea.
A few years after their arrival a plain-dressed human arrived, and spoke privately with the Head Master. He himself had been hired by an unnamed elf to deliver a monthly stipend for the care and education of a young elf of a certain age. The Elf was described as a toddler, and his drop-off date was given, and that he would bear a 'noble mein' whatever that meant to the snooty elf that hired him.
When confronted with two children of similar age and exact same registration date, he was stymied for a moment. But, he was hired for his ability to get things done discreetly and professionally, and for never, ever asking questions of his clients. So he interviewed the two young elves. The first, Rennilon, was quite polite and charming, answered his questions in a forthcoming and confident manner and was just a cute kid. The second; hid under a table, threw a tantrum, and at one point bit the agent most painfully upon his leg. One elf looked like any other to the human.
Thus, the human agent decided, the definition of 'noble mein' becomes somewhat clearer. Thus, the Lady of Knowlern protected her siblings as best she could, the Major Domo handled the transactions and reports, telling only the Lady of her nephew's progress. Thus the Agent performed his duty admirably and his reputation remained secure. Thus the Lantern Street Orphanage was assured a century of operating costs, and none but the Head Master (and his replacements) handled the books and oversaw an unusual education amongst orphans. Thus did a young Grey Elf get access to tutors and books that surpassed those given to the other orphans, and lastly, thus did a noble-born Wood Elf become an unruly and larcenous delinquent.