A traveler riding north from the Bourne will see a range of widely-scattered hills, with a castle on top of each hill. These are the Little Kingdoms. Each is a small country, tiny by the standards of most kingdoms, generally consisting of only one or two villages and surrounding farmland clustered around the castle on the hill. The kingdoms are generally peaceful places where very little changes over the years, but they all have one curious feature: if you are a plucky, good-hearted young man or woman setting out to make your way in the world, you’re very likely to have a great life-changing adventure in the Little Kingdoms.
These are lands of strange fortune where a woodcutter’s son can end up marrying a princess and becoming king, or where a miller’s daughter may persevere through great hardship to marry a prince and become queen. And if there is no adventure to be had within the kingdoms themselves at a particular time, the Deep Dark Forest lies to the west, and the Screaming Wastes to the east. And in fact it often happens that your adventure will begin in one of the Little Kingdoms but eventually take you to one or both of these conveniently close-by but extremely dangerous places.
Nothing about the kingdoms is guaranteed, however. Many young adventurers have come to the Little Kingdoms expecting to make their fortune, only to end up no better off than they were before, or in many cases worse. Strength, good looks, and courage aren’t necessarily going to guarantee you a successful adventure, especially not if you show up with the assumption that because of your gifts you’re entitled to a happy ending. Many bold young men have come here and failed at some task, only to watch their foolish, inexperienced youngest brother succeed. And even a happy ending isn’t necessarily going to stay happy. There have been cases of poor but deserving young men who won the hand of the princess and became king, but who later became obsessed with holding onto power and through their own greed and malice ended up losing their kingdom to other poor but deserving young men. In the Little Kingdoms you can start poor, become a king, and lose it all again. In this way the kingdoms know change while still remaining much the same over the years.
When it’s time for knight-apprentices of the Errantry to go on their first solo adventure, they are often sent to the one of the Little Kingdoms. As these are places of relative stability and predictability, an inexperienced knight-in-training is not likely to end up in too much trouble. But then again, in the Perilous Realm nothing is certain. Even the familiar and quiet Little Kingdoms can hold surprises.