Devil’s Elbow is a mountainous island, heavily forested with pine trees, firs, redwoods, and cypress trees. Reefs and dangerous rocks surround the island except for one narrow approach to a sheltered cove on its northern side, and most of the island’s shores are rocky cliffs averaging 100 feet in height. The island terrain itself is rugged, with its highest peak being 800 feet above sea level. Birds, bats, and other flying animals are common fauna, and there’s a relatively large population of deer, wild boar, wild dogs, stirges, giant centipedes, snakes, donkey rats, and rabbits on the island as well. Most of these animals and vermin were introduced to the island by settlers from the south 5 decades ago.
At that time, Devil’s Elbow was known primarily among the local Varisians and goblin tribes of the nearby mountains as the lair of a cruel and capricious siren named Virashi. When disenfranchised explorers and settlers began drifting into the region in great numbers 70 or so years ago, dissatisfied with the way Magnimar was growing, several settlements sprang up along the shores here. While two of these settlements (Riddleport and Roderic’s Cove) fared well and even flourished, most of the settlements, faced with goblins, dangerous wildlife, and the difficulties of the remote region, did not. The village of Witchlight, founded in 4680 ar by an exiled Chelish merchant named Yaris Neraken, was one such village.
When he was scouting locations for a suitable site, he and his ship wrecked on the reefs surrounding Devil’s Elbow. Yaris, the only survivor of the wreck, found himself in the care of a strange and enthralling creature with the body of a bird and the face of a beautiful woman—the siren Virashi. He spent many months as her plaything, but in time an amazing thing happened. The two fell in love. Virashi released Yaris from enthrallment, and while he remained at the siren’s side for many more weeks, he pined for the comforts of civilization. He eventually convinced Virashi that, were he to establish a thriving community on the island above, not only would he be able to enjoy soft beds and fireplaces but the money he brought in would allow him to drape the siren and her lair with riches. It didn’t take much to convince the avaricious siren of the benefits of this idea.
Yaris returned to Magnimar and managed to convince several investors that the rumors of Virashi were little more than that, and that he would be able to build a thriving settlement on the island. Once they arrived, he chose a site at the center of the island that overlooked the Varisian Gulf to serve as his new village’s foundation, and commissioned the creation of several watchtowers and lighthouses to warn what he hoped would be a steady influx of merchant traffic away from the dangerous reefs. The island’s rugged terrain made farming impossible, so Yaris had shiploads of deer, boar, donkey rats, rabbits, and other animals brought and released in an attempt to seed a self-sustaining local wildlife population to help support his citizens. And as the money started flowing in, he made good on his promise and did indeed drape Virashi in riches.
Yet as the construction of Witchlight and the watchtowers continued, it became apparent that Yaris’s dream was unraveling. What was initially intended to be a self-sustaining settlement became more and more reliant on supplies from Riddleport, and that city was only too eager to gouge Yaris for every penny. As dissent increased among his people, Yaris’s bad luck seemed only to grow. The western watchtower burned partially to the ground only a week after construction was complete, killing nearly a dozen laborers and Yaris’s brother in the process. Several weeks later, a ship bearing a huge shipment of grain ran afoul of the reefs surrounding the island, and the giant centipedes that had infested the ship made it ashore and quickly bloomed into one of the island’s most obnoxious and dangerous pests. The spate of bad luck gave rise to whispers of “Virashi’s Curse,” and more and more locals began to speak of seeing a ghostly woman-faced bird in the forests and on the rocky shores. Yaris railed against these rumors, but was unable to offer proof that Virashi wasn’t behind the “curse” without revealing his secret. Then, at the onset of winter during a particularly violent storm, the final blow struck. A shipment of diseased cattle brought to the island to augment meager food stores saw an outbreak of the deadly disease anthrakitis that killed off a third of Witchlight’s population. Distraught over the fact that his dream was falling apart, Yaris went down to seek comfort with Virashi—but he was followed by a suspicious priest who believed Yaris had made a deal with a devil that had gone sour. The priest’s fears were confirmed when he witnessed Yaris and Virashi embrace. He returned to Witchlight, roused a mob, and under the protection of a silence spell, led the mob down to Virashi’s cave the next morning and slew the siren as she slept in her lair.
Yaris woke the next day to a horrific sight—the body of his lover hanging from a pole above a fire in the middle of Witchlight. Overcome with grief and shock, Yaris threw himself from the eastern watchtower onto the rocks and surf below. This was the final blow to the settlement—without Yaris to provide encouragement, the remaining citizens of Devil’s Elbow packed up and left for easier lives in Riddleport, Magnimar, or beyond. By the end of the week, Devil’s Elbow had been abandoned.
For the past several decades, Devil’s Elbow has remained uninhabited. Travelers on ships passing close to the island sometimes claim to see lights burning in the island’s watchtowers, further inspiring rumors that the place is haunted. These rumors are given weight every few years when adventurers decide to sail out to the island in search of Virashi’s hidden treasure, since many of them do not return, and those who do come with tales of monstrous centipedes, strange noises, and mysterious lights in the woods. This, combined with the fact that an unusual number of ships seem to wreck and sink in the waters within a 5-mile radius around the island, secured the region’s ill repute, and today, very few visitors come to its deserted shores.