Born into a family that is already engaged in a blood feud with another noble house, Otto is sent to live with monks, but is reclaimed at age 12 by his militant, but loving father. The gentle-natured boy is kidnapped and mutilated by the rival family. Pauline, his captors daughter helps him escape. His father allows him to return to the monks who place him under the emperor’s protection. His silver hand is a replacement for the one Otto lost while in captivity, but his injury does not prevent him from maturing wisely and marrying Pauline.
Up from the gray rocks, rising sheer and bold and bare, stood the walls and towers of Castle Drachenhausen. A great gate–way, with a heavy iron–pointed portcullis hanging suspended in the dim arch above, yawned blackly upon the bascule or falling drawbridge that spanned a chasm between the blank stone walls and the roadway that winding down the steep rocky slope to the little valley just beneath. There in the lap of the hills around stood the wretched straw–thatched huts of the peasants belonging to the castle—miserable serfs who, half timid, half fierce, tilled their poor patches of ground, wrenching from the hard soil barely enough to keep body and soul together. Among those vile hovels played the little children like foxes about their dens, their wild, fierce eyes peering out from under a mat of tangled yellow hair.
Beyond these squalid huts lay the rushing, foaming river, spanned by a high, rude, stone bridge where the road from the castle crossed it, and beyond the river stretched the great, black forest, within whose gloomy depths the savage wild beasts made their lair, and where in winter time the howling wolves coursed their flying prey across the moonlit snow and under the net–work of the black shadows from the naked boughs above.
The watchman in the cold, windy bartizan or watch–tower that clung to the gray walls above the castle gateway, looked from his narrow window, where the wind piped and hummed, across the tree–tops that rolled in endless billows of green, over hill and over valley to the blue and distant slope of the Keiserberg, where, on the mountain side, glimmered far away the walls of Castle Trutz–Drachen.