A common theme among Orkney legend is the phenomenon of vanishing islands. Mysterious islands are said to rise unexpectedly from the sea or from a mist, and then disappear just as suddenly as they appeared. It is also clear from the legends that these islands were not stationary, and could reveal themselves in various unexpected locations.
The most famous of the vanishing islands of Orkney is Hildaland, which is said to be one of the two homes that the Finfolk would migrate between. The second of these being Finfolkheem, their ancestral home, which is located at the bottom of the sea. Hildaland, meaning “hidden land”, served as a summer retreat for the Finfolk. Using dark sorcery they would keep the island hidden from mortal men who might wander too close.
Much like Finfolkheem and Hildaland, R’lyeh is a sunken undersea city which is built upon an island that rises from the sea from time to time. R’lyeh serves as the resting place for dead Cthulhu, who “waits dreaming”. When the stars are right R’lyeh rises from the ocean floor allowing Cthulhu to also rise up, and from death-like slumber he emerges from his tomb to bring doom upon the earth. R'lyeh's location varies from one location to another (just as Hildaland), depending on the weird tale and writer. Just as the Cthulhu Mythos and Norse mythology seem to run parallel in many areas, so too does R’lyeh and the vanishing islands of Orkney.
Vanishing Islands in your Game
Using these elements is a great way to insert a Lovecraftian flavor into your game, and it can also serve as a way to make an end-run around the history books. Who’s to say that the Orkneys did not have a number of other islands located within the archipelago that vanished from the landscape as well as history? These are the hiding places of the mysterious and forbidden. Home to creatures that time forgot, and races that history never recorded. These islands are waiting to be discovered and their dark secrets uncovered.