The Great King long ago ceased attempting to police the wastelands of his Border Marches, and these debatable lands fell into the hands of petty counts, retired generals, and warlords, who constructed and then abandoned many keeps ripe for plunder.
In the middle of a desert in an oasis is a single prospering oak tree. Near the tree is a large pool of water. Drinking from the water is said to give you eternal life but really only extends your life for as long as you continue drinking from it. Those that have found it and left, have never found it again. Some search for it still.