Isle Five
Silver Prince's secret isle

The landmass known as Island Five is easily the most unusual of the islands in the Skullstone Archipelago because, in most senses, Island Five does not exist. In the First Age, the Solars greatly expanded the frontiers of Creation with powerful Wyld-shaping Charms, creating new territories whose continued existence depended on social interaction with the more stable parts of reality. As the First Age fell to Contagion and the Fair Folk, Creation underwent massive upheavals, and vast stretches of these artificial territories winked out of existence when everyone who knew of them died out.

Island Five was one such territory, a penal colony that once existed more than 2,000 miles west of modern Skullstone. The death toll in the colony was almost complete, but one survivor, a convict, was blessed with natural resistance to the Contagion. Because of the prisoner’s continued existence, the island endured, but through a quirk of the Wyld, the expanse of ocean surrounding the island did not. As geography warped to accommodate the new status quo, the island relocated to within the Skullstone shadowland where the Wyld could no longer affect the island. The prisoner, who had survived the deadliest plague Creation had ever seen, was promptly torn apart by the dozens of hungry ghosts that arose from the bodies of his fellow inmates.

The circumstances surrounding Island Five’s transportation into the shadowland are the source of the landmass’s most unusual property. Metaphysically speaking, Island Five does not exist. Accordingly, it cannot be perceived through any means by anyone more than 100 yards from its shores. In the aftermath of the Fair Folk invasion, Creation was full of such strange anomalies, most of which were resolved by the Sidereal Exalted as part of their normal duties. Because Island Five came to rest in a shadowland, however, the Sidereals never knew of Island Five’s existence. The Bodhisattva discovered the island by chance and after conquering the hungry ghosts who populated it, he realized that it was the perfect place to build his secret factory-cathedrals. The island was quite literally impossible to find unless the searcher were piloting strictly by the stars of the Underworld, and even then, only the most skilled pilot could navigate to the shores of an island he couldn’t see.

Island Five is the Bodhisattva’s most carefully guarded secret. Other than his deathknight, no living person is aware of the island’s existence, and only those dead whose loyalty has been magically secured are told of it, let alone allowed to visit there. A handful of ghosts permanently bound into service to the Deathlord make their homes on this island, along with several dozen nephwracks loyal to the Bodhisattva’s goals. These ghosts oversee the island’s two main facilities.

The first is the Bodhisattva’s secret shipyards and his massive factory-cathedral, the House of the Sea's Cold Embrace, which supplies the secret fleet with artifact weaponry and materials. The Deathlord has carefully maintained the fiction that his Black Fleet consists of only a few dozen ships designed according to modern ship-building principles. The true bulk of the Black Fleet consists of nearly 50 vessels dry-docked at Island Five, each of which is built according to First Age design principles and is individually a match for all but the most advanced ships in the Realm. If events do not force his hand, the Bodhisattva plans to keep his fleet a secret until he has an even 500 ships, enough to destroy an every single imperial fleet at the same time and more than enough to crush all other naval power in Creation combined.

The other facility holds the secret that lies at the heart of the Bodhisattva’s entire kingdom: the location:foundryofsouls. The Bodhisattva’s entire religious philosophy rests on two assumptions—first, that everyone who dies in Skullstone will eventually be reincarnated according to his worth and his loyalty to the Bodhisattva, and second, that those who continue to exist as ghosts merely delay their eventual reincarnation out of obligation to the state. Both of these assumptions are utter lies fabricated by the Bodhisattva to take advantage of the Skullfolk’s desperate need for hope of a better afterlife.

The truth is that everyone who dies while within the Web of Shadows, without exception, returns as a ghost. Upon death, however, such newborn ghosts are drawn instantly to the Foundry of Souls like iron filings to a magnet, snatched up so quickly that others present at the time of death never even notice the newborn ghosts’ manifestation. Once captured, the ghosts are held in storage, oblivious to everything around them until they are judged. Those considered by the Bodhisattva or his agents to be necessary to his long-term goals are returned to Skullfolk to the jubilation of their families. The rest, roughly seven out of every eight souls, remain trapped within the necromantic mechanisms of the Foundry, where they are shaped into soulsteel by the nephwracks in the Bodhisattva’s employ and then forged into material components to be used by the Skullstone society.

This is the dark horror that lies at the heart of the Skullstone Archipelago. Each of the thousands of zombies and skeletons used as slaves for the Skullfolk is held together by several feet of soulsteel wire. Most of the public buildings are reinforced by soulsteel girders. Every one of the ships in the Black Fleet contains massive amounts of soulsteel components. The Bodhisattva’s own armor consists of more than 200 individual soulsteel pieces woven together with soulsteel wires. And every single one of these individual components was once a living being who went to his death expecting that his loyalty to the Deathlord would secure him a better place in his next life.

The unholy mechanism that allows the Foundry to function is not a creation of the Bodhisattva’s ingenuity. Deep within the Foundry, hidden within a labyrinth armed with deadly traps and patrolled by scores of nephwracks, lies a small plain room containing only a pedestal. On the pedestal lies a small stone—a pebble, really—cut from the tomb of the Bodhisattva’s Neverborn master, Principle of Consumption. This tiny stone, dubbed “the Hungry Stone,” represents the Bodhisattva’s connection with his master and with the labyrinth itself. The Hungry Stone draws the newly dead to itself and keeps them paralyzed, insensate and ready for processing. The Hungry Stone empowers the Foundry’s amazing and terrifying influence over the dead caught within its range, a range that grows ever farther as the Web of Shadows continues to expand.

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