Wilderlands Skull and Shackles
When a Free Captain named Magna Stormeyes discovered the natural harbor on the windward islet of the Homeward Islands years ago, she immediately recognized that it would make the perfect haven from which to launch a pirate fleet. Starting with just one ship and a small encampment on the islet’s harbor, she began to ply the trade of piracy. With the plunder from her initial hauls, she set about building a keep, which she called Tidewater Rock. From the vantage point atop the Rock, she found she could pick out particularly ripe targets while receiving ample of warning of hostile ships approaching.
Over time, Stormeyes’ successes enabled her to build a sizeable fleet, as well as more strongholds on several different islands. She became the scourge of the southern sea lanes and eventually claimed the Hurricane Crown as her own. Shortly after becoming the Hurricane King and relocating to Rallu, she was assassinated by rival Free Captains. Stormeyes’ burgeoning fleet fell apart among its squabbling captains. Gerta Frome, first mate of Stormeyes’ flagship, the Cocksure, seized control of the Rock. Within only a few years, Frome became a powerful Free Captain herself, and the legend of Tidewater Rock as both a powerful good luck talisman and an impregnable bastion was born.
Over the many years since, control of Tidewater Rock has passed from hand to hand, and its strategic location and practical defensibility have enabled its owners to enrich themselves substantially. In recent years, Tidewater Rock has become of less strategic importance, and its owners to be of less prominence, but the age-old axiom of “Good fortune and sure sail await what one can crack the Tidewater Rock” has stood the test of time among the pirates of the Shackles and is oft-quoted—if seldom heeded—even today.
The most recent lord of Tidewater Rock was Bertram Smythee, captain of the Vale and three other brigs. Like his predecessors, he held Tidewater Rock as his seat, but controlled a few other small castles on surrounding islands as well. Over a decade ago, “Iron Bert” Smythee went to sea with his small fleet in a feud with Free Captain Carola Antiochus and was never seen again. Word came back that Antiochus ambushed Smythee with the help of a previously unknown ally—one Barnabas Harrigan—and that Smythee’s fleet was cut to pieces between the enemy fleets. Though Captain Smythee managed to sink Antiochus’ Pergador, he was last seen on the deck of the crippled and sinking Vale.
Captain Harrigan claimed the remainder of Antiochus’ fleet and took control of several of Smythee’s undefended castles. He made an attempt to take the Tidewater Rock as well, only to discover that Smythee’s able widow had taken charge of its defenses. She managed to fend off his attack with such alacrity that Harrigan decided to leave the widow to rot in her tower.
Although Tidewater Rock remains a secure base and harbor, it does not command the reputation it once did. The current owner of the Rock is Agasta Smythee, widow of the late Iron Bert. Though Lady Smythee is a competent and formidable figure, without any of her late husband’s ships or network of castles, the Lady of the Rock has fallen upon hard times. Lady Smythee’s forces have been reduced to a small body of loyal guards and a few family retainers whom she employs to eke out a living. The Rock still commands some treasures—its favorable location, its security, and the late captain’s fabled iron shirt from which he gained his nickname—but it is otherwise remote and at the mercy of what the sea chooses to throw upon its shores.
Having heard the legend of Tidewater Rock when their ship was rechristened at Rickety’s Squibs, the PCs decided to “crack the Rock” for themselves. Instead of taking the place by force, though, they made Lady Smithee into an ally through the outdated tradition of Marriage under Shackles Law.