As requested I have put together this report detailing the events that led to the current situation in the north. This report contains much information that is not known outside of the Masque Intelligence Agency and is for the eyes of the Spymaster only.
IX. The Black Gate
We've been aware of reports from the south for some time of the massive iron doors known as the "Black Gate". This structure lay in the distant wilderness near the nations of Contar, Jefam, and Sithess. These chained and magically sealed doors lead directly into a solid stone cliff and are covered in markings and runes that don't resemble any other known writing.
Thought to be another "elven" ruin, this has been studied my many scholars who have concluded that the gate's symbols do not match anything known on the rest of the continent, including what little elven writing we have.
A few years ago (566) a scholar named Sinclarnis from the island nation of Vortain came to the gate claiming to have discovered how to open it. After spending a few years and a small fortune, in 570 the gate opened.
Rumors of great riches that that lay in the gate and drove the surrounding nations to each claim that the gate was theirs. This may have led to open war, were it not for the fear that the new air ships of the north caused.
A war between the nations would weaken them enough that they could be easily conquered by the northern nations. While only Contar had ever been involved with a conflict with the north (during the Fellus expansion). They each felt that invasion was a real possibility.
The comprise was to create a neutral group which was to oversee the gate and it's explorations. Named the Black Gate Company, this group was given control over who could enter the gate, and to tax a portion on items that came out from the gate.
While most of this tax was to be distributed back to the parent nations, the Black Gate Company also set up a sort of make shift town outside the gate. There they sold supplies, maps, offered lodging, and offered an exchange rate to the coins of the nation at a less than reasonable markup.
Quickly the Black Gate Company became more wealthy than the nations that they were supposedly working for. They are now a powerful and rich organization with their own mercenary force. By the time they parent nations realized what was happening, BGC was already too powerful to simply shut down.
X. The Fog
In 573 a crisis hit the lands of Lanton. From all our reports no place was speared as a strange fog crept over the land and failed to ever recede. Some linked this event to the opening of the Black Gate, others (notably the northern kingdoms) blamed the now absent Mages Guild. Our own studies seem to suggest that the fog originated in the western wilderness, but have not found the source just yet.
While travel between towns has become more difficult and crop growth was effected, the worse part of the event was reports that strange creatures and beasts roamed the fog killing and destroying lesser villages and farms. At first these reports seemed just a fearful reaction to this unnatural event, but as more reports came it, it has become hard to deny something is going on. Even within walled towns people started to disappear and panic was setting in across the lands.
As you know, we began heavy research into the cause of the fog and also of any way to undo it. While we did not find the answers we were looking for, we did discover a ancient record of a similar event from the Land of Origin. That document was far from complete but it did have instructions for creating a ward which could be used to push off the fog.
The council tested and learned to creation of use of this ward then sent out a series of ambassadors to spread the knowledge. This act of good will lead to our praise in many nations, but we feel a bit of skepticism and doubt from Fellus which. Much to our own surprise we found that a very similar ward was already in use in the far south with claims that the wise men of Ach-Fin-Nor had discovered a way to drive back the fog a full seven months before our own discovery. (We have already begun sending more agents to the deep south, as this area has been historically considered of little interest. I hope to have more to report on them soon).
The wards themselves are simply enough, constructed of twigs and string, and the use of a small amount of blood powers them. This of course is very simlar to the "old magic" practiced by the many peoples in the Land of Origin, and there is some concern that it might drive some people back to the old gods and practices. Notably, Norfin is concerned over the use of this "arcane force" but has had its own people use it for the time while they investigate other means. The nations of the north are less effected by the fog as they have learned to navigate their air ships above it.
Most towns now are clear of the fog and some roads and farms have even been set up with wards at regular intervals. Still travel through the fog is dangerous, and wards not placed on a stake or post in the ground seem to be far less effective. We continue our research into the cause and remedy for this problem.
XI. The Marlin
One other strange thing came out of the fog shortly after it began: the Marlin. These men are of a race we have no record of and are a great concern over how little we know of them. Physically they appear very pale, but with dark eyes with no white in them at all. Their hair tends to also be of the deepest black, though some have been seen to have a pure white or grey hair (which may indicate noble blood, as the white haired members have often been the leaders of the groups we've seen).
The other interesting characteristic is the extremely long and pointed tops of their ears. While some considered them to be the return of the ancient "elves", they don't match the depictions of them at all. Their ears are too long, their faces too angular.
In any case they appeared out of the fog in ships resembling the fish that became their name. They appeared along the eastern cost in several ports in Jefam and Comak. They spoke a language that no one had heard before, and in many cases were detained for in fear. In each case, it only took a day or two for the Marlin to learn and start using the languages of Lanton, and so far we have failed to get them to teach us any of their own.
They claim to have come from a archipelago some ways to the south east and they they became lost in the fog. I've seen the reports we've gotten about their ships, and they are indeed unlike anything we've seen before. The construction is surpassing even the alchemical hulls of the northern airships. and the sails are built of a sturdy but light materials rivaling our own best silks.
As far as we know they have been released from each nation that had detained them. Now they continue to sail up and down the cost trading some but mostly keeping to their ships. The have been refused port in Fellus, which called the Marlin "non-human monsters" so they have avoided that area.
We still don't know what to make of these Marlin. There were many unrecognized objects on their ships that we have no bases of comparison to. So far all efforts to learn more about them have failed and they seem to be better at keeping secrets than we are. This no doubt concerns to agency and myself.
As you can see spymaster the world has changed greatly in your abstinence. Still the mask of time remains intact and we as ever serve our masters and the great Secret, let only those who where the mask know it less the world be thrown into flames. Former Spymaster Talonnel has signed off on these repots prior to his dawning the mask of time and I hope that they meet with your approval.