Skull & Shackles
From Hell's Heart
Rumors of a Chelish sympathizer among the pirate lords have been whispered for years in the Shackles, but until Captain Barnabas Harrigan’s recent capture by the Chelish navy, the rumors were simply that. Indeed, the existence of those rumors may well have compelled Harrigan to take his chances surrendering when his ship the Wormwood was captured. As Harrigan’s luck would have it, the person to whom he surrendered was none other than Druvalia Thrune, admiral of the Chelish navy and a member of the ruling family of Cheliax. Admiral Thrune had been searching for a way to increase her standing and power in the Chelish government, and with the capture of her newest prisoner, she finally conceived of a plan.
The Shackles have long vexed Cheliax. As long as the pirate confederacy has existed, it has made travel along the west coast of Garund hazardous, but its alliance with Sargava and its role in that nation’s successful bid for freedom from Chelish rule is an insult to Cheliax’s pride that has festered for decades. Druvalia Thrune knows that the person who can successfully lead a strike against the Shackles and bring the Hurricane King and Port Peril under her heel will earn not only great prestige and fame, but also enough political power to rise to great heights in the Chelish government.
So when Harrigan fell into her hands, Druvalia immediately took action. She knew (as did only a few others) that her great-uncle Ezaliah Thrune holds a special hatred for Kerdak Bonefist, the Hurricane King. As Ezaliah Thrune has grown older, he has twice attempted to secure a dose of the youth-restoring sun orchid elixir from Thuvia. But to date, both attempts to transport the elixir back home to the elderly Thrune have been waylaid by the Hurricane King’s agents. First, the ship transporting the elixir home was captured by Bonefist himself. The second time, Ezaliah’s attempt to simply have a loyal agent teleport back to Cheliax with the elixir failed when Bonefist’s own agents managed to magically compel that agent to instead teleport to the Shackles—leaving behind a taunting note for Ezaliah to fume over.
Ezaliah Thrune has enough money left over to make one last bid for the elixir, but when his great-niece Druvalia approached him with a different option, the bitter old man found that his thirst for revenge outweighed his fear of death. He instead lent his considerable wealth and political power to ensure that Druvalia had the resources she needed to sail an armada south to attack the Shackles. It’s a risky plan—if Druvalia fails to deliver the Hurricane Crown to Cheliax, both she and Ezaliah will have more to fear than the shame of failure—yet they are convinced of their chances for success.
Indeed, Ezaliah and Druvalia find it difficult to conceive of a way in which they can fail, for Barnabas Harrigan and Ezaliah’s financial backing are but two of Druvalia’s resources—the third is a secret (and relatively illegal) alliance she and her elderly great-uncle made with the archdevil Geryon. In return for his powerful blessings to help guide Druvalia’s armada safely through the Eye of Abendego, as well as granting Druvalia the aid of a large number of devils, Ezaliah and Druvalia Thrune have promised one of their souls to Geryon as payment—though exactly whose soul depends on whichever of them perishes first. Ezaliah knows his great-niece’s risk-laden lifestyle will come back to bite her someday, while Druvalia knows she needs only wait a few more years (or perhaps just months) for her great-uncle to die. Druvalia and Ezaliah are each as sure that the other will pay the price as they are that the impending assault on the Shackles cannot fail.
But even Druvalia’s inside line on the Shackles’ defenses, her access to pirate-held secrets of navigating the region, and the support of an archdevil may not be her greatest advantages in her coming attack. The fact that Kerdak Bonefist, after 38 years of successful rule as Hurricane King of the Shackles, has grown complacent and arrogant may well be the Shackles’ most critical weakness. Confident that any Chelish fleet of a size large enough to threaten the Shackles would have to sail around the Eye of Abendego (and would thus be noticed far in advance of its arrival in the Shackles, giving the pirates plenty of time to prepare), the Hurricane King is not prepared for a direct strike against his domain from the Eye of Abendego itself. His staunch and increasingly stubborn refusal to gather a Shackles fleet against this threat—even in light of the latest proof the PCs may have discovered—will leave the Shackles disorganized and open to Admiral Druvalia Thrune’s attack. That is, unless the PCs can bring their own fleet north to the Eye’s edge to defeat her!