Lord Arnten, your great grandfather was a landless knight in service to the king of the realm. During a massive battle against a usurper, he led a company of horse in a charge that routed the rebel forces.
The savage races to the East took advantage of the kingdom’s weakness to launch a large scale invasion of the realm. The king placed your great grandfather in command of the army sent to repel the invasion. His forces chased the savages back to a primeval forest on the eastern borderlands. When savage guerillas and snipers took up residence in the forest, your great grandfather set it afire. The savages retreated to their strongholds in the marshlands. His army debilitated by two wars, your great grandfather did not pursue. Instead, he fortified his position as a stronghold against attack from the East.
In reward for your great grandfather’s service, the king made him lord of the eastern borderland. It has never been a prosperous realm. The lands are rugged, unproductive, and far removed from the kingdom’s central trade networks. The large, untamed forest your great grandfather set alight has regrown and covers much of the eastern territory. Your common folk rightly fear the forest as a refuge for savage raiders. Rocky mountains form your northern border. Beyond the forest to the east lie extensive marshlands that are home to several bands of savage races who periodically raid your territory. Only the hardiest, most desperate pioneers attempt to settle your lands.
Your fathers took the king’s charge seriously. They saw your house as guardians of the kingdom — the first line of defense against the savages. Other lords, however, have married into your family only reluctantly. They see your lands as unprofitable and dangerous.
Recently, the king called his banners to repel an invasion from a nation across the seas. There have been few major wars since your great grandfather’s day, and normally your house would only send a token force so as not to deplete your garrison against the savage races. However, this time the situation is dire and the king asked your father to personally march every man he could spare to the king’s castle.
Just before our campaign begins, your father places you in charge of your house and holdings until his return. With him he takes nearly all the men of fighting age, along with the equipment, provisions, and treasure necessary to support his army in the field. There’s not much left behind except boys, old men, and women. You have a personal guard, if you wish, and skeleton crews manning the defenses of your castle and four small keeps on the eastern borderlands along the forest line.
One of the wonders of your realm are a trio of ancient fortresses. Scholars believe the fortresses were built by elves 7 millennia ago for the same purpose as your keeps — to keep an eye on the savage races. Before the elves abandoned the fortresses, perhaps 5 millennia ago, they sealed them with powerful magic. No one has ever been able to breech the seals. Your great grandfather positioned his four keeps strategically straddling the three abandoned fortresses.