"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." -- Arthur C. Clark
The gnome hefts the giant tome situated on his back and then pushes his round spectacles up his protruding nose. He rubs the tip of his nose, knowing that he should really stop studying with his face so close to the books. The skin would sometimes rub off the tip during long hours of recording and study. Specks were moving on down the road, and he produces a spyglass from a loop on his hip. Through the lens, he spots a group of adventurers. He grins from ear-to-ear and gives a hoot, almost losing his balance due to the weight of the book on his back.
"These fellows look like they have purpose! It's time to find out what they're up to!"
An old, misanthropic and paranoid man feels his time is coming. There are sons to leave his fortune to, but they are not worth it, not a dime do they deserve! And he doesn't really trust anyone else. And so he has made a decision: as a part of his last will, his henchmen are instructed to burn and destroy all his holdings, buildings as harvest. The lands shall be auctioned off, the proceeds used to pay the servants. Nothing shall stay behind. Nothing.
Depending on the status of the grumpy old man, this weird occurrence may be only a family drama, or it may end up bringing an entire region into chaos. Or the son(s) have found what should happen, and want to prevent it before their sick father dies.