Located 18 miles southwest of Riddleport and a mere 2 miles from the rugged and wild cliff shores of the Calphiak Mountains, the 5-mile-wide island of Devil’s Elbow appears on few maps. Its relatively remote location and notorious history have worked well together to ensure that it has remained mostly abandoned after an attempt to establish a settlement on its southern ridge.
Landfall on Devil’s Elbow
Repairs delay the initial plan to leave Riddleport for Devil’s Elbow, but the delay is only a few hours due to the PCs stopping the fire early. By early afternoon, the Flying Cloud is ready to set sail for Devil’s Elbow. The journey is short, and the ship covers the 18-mile voyage in a mere 5 hours, reaching the island about an hour before sundown.
The forested island is quiet as the ship approaches; no signs of life are immediately apparent. A low ridge forms a spine along the length of the island, its slopes covered with dense forest and its shores affording very few safe places to land. Two stone towers rise above the level of the surrounding trees along the top of the island’s ridge, one to the east and one at the island’s center. As they approach by day, a thin plume of smoke rises from a point about midway between those two towers at the height of the island’s ridge. Yet the most dramatic sight as the ship nears its destination is the immense crater on the island’s northeastern slopes. The crater itself is hundreds of feet wide and surrounded by an even larger swath of burnt trees that have been knocked flat in a burst pattern around the impact site. The region’s frequent rainstorms and damp conditions prevented the fire from consuming the entire island, yet in all nearly a quarter of the island’s forest was destroyed by the impact.
Captain Creesy seems unusually nervous as the ship nears the island; despite his bravado, the tales of Virashi’s Curse and the island’s history get to him, and the sight of the immense crater does little to calm his nerves. He tells the PCs that he’d rather not stay in the region, and he attempts to arrange for a pick-up date when they’ll be done and he can come back and collect them. As he speaks, a bright light suddenly flashes at the peak of the island’s central tower, a sparkling blast of pyrotechnics that lasts for several seconds before expiring. The mysterious flash of light seals the deal—Creesy will sail up to the old piers at the old harbor and allow the PCs to disembark, but he does not want to remain overnight within sight of the island.
Creesy is reluctant to dock anywhere but at the docks due to the dangerous reefs. Only a few minutes after the ship docks and the PCs are unloading any gear and mounts they brought with them, a voice calls out from the seemingly abandoned buildings: “Ahoy, the ship! Ahoy! Goldhammer’s Expedition requesting permission to approach!” The speaker is Gravin Goldhammer, leader of his eponymous expedition and official representative of the Gas Forges. As the dwarf nears the docks, followed by four others (two dwarves and two humans), it should be apparent to the PCs that they’ve had a rough time. Their clothes are torn and filthy and their faces are tired and haggard. Only these four of Gravin’s original dozen expedition members remain alive, and they’ve had enough of “this cursed island.” They seek passage on the Flying Cloud to return to Riddleport. Captain Creesy is only too willing to take the dwarves up on their request for passage back to Riddleport, since it gives him an excuse to leave the island in his wake. Fortunately for the PCs, the captain doesn’t intend to totally abandon them; he’ll agree to come back to the docks here at any point in the future the PCs request (which is in one weeks’ time).
As the PCs offload and the terrified men clamber up onto the Flying Cloud, Gravin is willing to answer some questions the PCs might have of him:
Who are you? “My name is Gravin Goldhammer, the leader of this fool-fated expedition. We’ve only been here a couple days, and this is all what’s left of the thirteen who landed.”
What happened to you? “Them stories about Virashi’s Curse are right—mostly. Only it ain’t ghosts what haunt this place, no. It’s monsters. Low-to-the-ground things, fast and lean. Never did get me a good look at one of them, even with them snatching a few of my men and dragging them off into the woods. A few others got bit or slashed, and their wounds turned bad. Some sort of sick got in them, and then, when they died, it came back out their faces. Torag’s scars, but that were a sight I’d like to unsee. Came right out of their faces like they were tongues, and then my own men attacked us. We put them down and burned the bodies just this morning. Whatever’s out there, it’s not fit for this world. You shouldn’t stay here. If you had any sense, you’d get back on that boat and head right back to Riddleport!”
Why are you here? “We came looking for skymetal, of course. Overlord Cromarcky hired my boss to send us out here. Unfortunately, we got here too late.”
Why were you too late?/How much skymetal did you find? “Not a speck. Plenty of craters around, but nothing in them worth taking. Either the other groups got it all, or there wasn’t any to begin with.”
What other groups? “There’s supposed to be three other groups here, but I only seen one of them so far—the cyphermages who are up in Witchlight. Slyeg and Zincher supposedly have men here too, but I ain’t seen any of them… although we did spot some smoke rising to the southeast, like maybe from campfires.”
What made that flash of light up on the hill? “My guess? One of them cyphermages. They settled in up there in the ruins of Witchlight and didn’t want company. They’ve been doing that light stuff since last night—I sent four men up the hill to investigate, but I haven’t seen any sign of them since. Whatever it is that’s been picking us off must’a got them, and sure as my beard it’s after the cyphermages too. Those flashes of light, I reckon, are calls for help. I’ve wasted enough of my men trying to answer that call, though. But hey, if you’re heading up there, do me a favor. You find any of my men, try to see that they make it back to Riddleport, will ya? I’ll put in a good word with the boss for a reward of a couple hundred gold if you do.”
Have you seen any dark elves on the island? This question causes Goldhammer to make an exasperated expression before he answers. “Nope. No leprechauns or two-headed donkey rats either. We haven’t even seen the Sandpoint Devil. You’re welcome to look for all three, and dark elves as well, but I ain’t staying here longer to see what other fanciful beasts this place has to offer.”
Nothing can convince Gravin to stay on shore, and as soon as the PCs finish questioning him, he retreats belowdecks with his men—he doesn’t come back up until the Flying Cloud’s safely back in Riddleport.
Exploring Devil’s Elbow
When Yaris Neraken first attempted to settle Devil’s Elbow, the three piers and houses here were the first structures he built, since they would serve as the gateway between Witchlight and the rest of the world. Situated in the only safe harbor on the island’s shore, the buildings here once served as warehouses and homes for guards and laborers, but they are now long abandoned and partially collapsed due to the falling star; little remains of the buildings but heaps of rubble and a few leaning walls. Likewise, the piers themselves are falling into disrepair, with many planks missing from their lengths, especially at the ends where only a few leaning pilings protrude from the surf. There’s nothing unusual or particularly interesting in the ruined buildings, with the exception of several bright red, foot-long centipedes that scurry for cover as soon as anyone approaches.
Reaching Witchlight requires a difficult slog up a steep, overgrown trail that winds up the mountainous island, or an even more difficult slog up through dense underbrush. Witchlight itself is located atop the island’s highest peak, affording a peerless view of the Varisian Gulf. On particularly clear days, the distant haze of Riddleport can be seen to the northeast.