The Skullstone Archipelago consists of five islands, the largest being Darkmist Island – a volcanic island of gray rock, beaches of fine black sand, pocketed by small fridgid lakes, supporting little life other than a few species of blighting moss, corpse-pale lichen, insects, bats, and flightless birds (somewhat expected as Darkmist is site to the West’s largest and most infamous Shadowland).
Along the coast of Darkmist lie port towns made of unmortared stone, where the living and dead mix freely in the narrow streets between its tall buildings. These ports are chilly and dark even on the brightest summer day.
At the center of the island lies the necropolis of Onyx, carved from the naked rock of a long-extinct volcano. The other four islands of this archipelago lie on the bordermarches of the shadowland. Bats and flightless birds live in the islands’ pale trees and dark brush, and there are more living souls than dead in the cities.
Skullstone Citizenship extends beyond death. All citizens of this dread land are judged after death, and while some are raised as mere zombies or skeletons, others are brought back as ghosts to comprise Skullstone’s nobles and courtiers. Many mortals choose to commit suicide there in hopes of gaining immortality as a ghost.
Black ships are constantly carrying the dead and dying to Darkmist. The living can gain wealth and prestige, but noble rank and its privileges come only after death.
Skullstone is a wealthy state through its use of undead labor. Zombies and skeletons perform most menial tasks, toiling ceaselessly for the Silver Prince and any citizen with the means to rent them. Much of the archipelago’s wealth comes from the fact that undead divers can harvest the sea’s bounty, undead oarsmen can row galleons without pausing and undead guards protect the cities. Undead servants are an indicator of wealth, and undead experiments fill necromantic laboratories, while undead courtesans partner customers at local brothels.
Skullstone does not forbid visitors, and merchants are welcome, but few care to leave the travelers’ quarters near the docks.
The Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Water
The Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Water rules as the eternal monarch of the Skullstone Archipelago, a series of Western isles covered by an ancient shadowland. He teaches that life is merely a preparatory period before the exaltation of death, and this belief is the foundation of his nation’s religion and culture. The Bodhisattva is a canny trader, salvager, diplomat, admiral, and administrator; his wealth shames that of any other Western nation. He has expanded his territory for centuries, slowly but steadily, preferring to enmesh his neighbors in complex webs of debt, favors, and mutual oaths before moving to annex them once they inevitably break faith in some way.