aka The Black Society Fleet, the Black Fleet, the Black Pirates
The Black Society is an extra-national group, founded in Merlkring twenty years ago, but now operating from a secret location. Some rumours say their base is an island deep in the Kringsmaer, other more fantastic speculation has it that it is a floating fortress, built with their special knowledge of ley-magic. They do, however, have a public headquarters in Masovia as a base of operations and trading post.
They operate an unknown number of ships, many of which are capable of deep ocean travel, but which are also well-armed. Their primary raison d'etre is to harass and attack Gavonais naval and merchant fleets, but they have been expanding their operations into trade, mercenary and exploratory activities, thus leveraging their superior knowledge of ley magic into financial and military advantage.
The Black Society are loyal to their home country, and their objective is to end the Gavonais occupation of Merlkring. Given the might of Gavon armed forces, the Black Society realistically see this goal as a long term one to be effected variously by military, economic and political means, so are currently going about increasing their power base and influence in these spheres.
They have been outlawed by the governments of Gavonais and occupied Merlkring, so their ships and agents are legitimate targets for the military of those countries. Several bounties have also been placed by the King of Gavonais, on members of the society and for capture of their ships. The laws of Masovia, however, are free enough that the Society can set up an open shopfront without fear of the authorities. Here they advertise their various services, recruit, and make contact with various nobles and representatives of other countries who are favourable to their cause.
Twenty years ago, a group of Merlish nobles, natural philosophers, gentleman adventurers, alchemists and broad-minded entrepreneurs began to consider the possible benefits of improving access to the world's oceans. The Society itself was founded by Lord Edvud Black, a retired seaman and expert navigator, who drew up the Society's charter and championed its cause among the elite and intelligentsia of Merlkring. He gained royal blessing and verbal support from the Koening, but no actual capital support as the Koening and Mage's Council could not see the benefit in Black's vision.
With two decades of scientific experiment, tedious mapping of offshore currents and ley-lines, intensive alchemical research, pie-in-the-sky theorising, massive investment, copious trial and error, and not an insignificant loss of life and capital, the Records Chamber at the Society Hall was beginning to fill with an impressive and unrivalled body of knowledge of navigation. This consisted of accurate and practical charts of the winds, water currents, islands and ley-lines off most of the coast of Dominia Grantis, and a good portion of the great ocean as well. Captain's logs record early voyages to Longman's Reaches and the strange new members of far-off civilisations encountered there.
With these proven advances in knowledge, the Black Society sought to gain more official recognition from the Koening and public funding, but at the time Merlkring coffers were being desperately emptied in paying for the war against Gavonais, as they were threatening to cross the Merlish borders and invade. Thus, at the height of the Unity War, royal funding was not available for theoretical endeavours, and indeed what ships the Society had available were being comandeered to defend against the Gavonais navy.
As impending invasion threatened, Lord Edvud and the Black Society agreed that they would not want their treasure-house of knowledge and navigation science fall into the hands of the Gavons, so they gathered up all of the charts, books, journals, navigational instruments and ley equipment they could, and loaded it all up onto the remainder of the Society's fleet along with whatever financial assets they could liquify and carry as well. The Black Society treasure fleet sailed out of harbour on the same night as the Gavonais King's Canoneers rode into the city, and very effectively disappeared.
Leyline Magic Items
The Black Society are pioneers in the use of ley effect magic items, particularly in navigation and sea-faring. This technology is primarily what gives them an advantage over the ships of other nations, and they are mainly responsible for its development.
The main artefacts they employ are: