The Battle of the Middle Ground was a major engagement between the Middle Army of Taglios, a Protectorate force of about 30,000 commanded personally by Soulcatcher (the "Protector"); and the Black Company, 10,000 strong, commanded by its Captain, Sleepy.
The pitched battle took place in lightly settled country midway between the major city of Dejagore and the fortified crossings over the Main at Ghoja during Soldiers Live. The battle was overall a victory for the Black Company. But, although they captured Soulcatcher herself, the Protectorate war continued.
Preceding events Edit
Soulcatcher believed that the remnants of the Black Company would never return to the homeworld after they fled through the shadowgate at the end of Water Sleeps. But four years later, while she was hunting Narayan Singh and the Daughter of Night in the Shadowlands, she was ambushed by a wave of Tobo's Unknown Shadows. At the expense of most of her own trained shadows, Soulcatcher killed off the attacking entities and learned of their origin: the Black Company had somehow reconstituted itself and was coming for her. She knew the Company's goal was to defeat her and overthrow the Protectorate (her dictatorial regime in Taglios). She traveled north on foot to muster her forces.
Meanwhile, Sleepy and her 10,000 soldiers (mostly recruited from Hsien) marched inexorably northward from the shadowgate. They speedily disarmed the Shadowlands, crossed the Dandha Presh, and captured Protectorate sites like Nijha and Gharhawnes.
Battle against SoulcatcherEdit
Soulcatcher summoned her Taglian forces and divided them into three armies, one for each of the three possible Company targets. Mogaba was posted with his Second Territorial division outside the city of Taglios itself. The small Southern Army gathered outside Dejagore. Between them, the large Middle Army was assembled in lightly settled country midway between Dejagore and the fortified crossings over the Main at Ghoja, with Soulcatcher in direct command. She secretly seeded the ground at strategic points with incredibly destructive "deathflower" spells.
As the Company approached, Soulcatcher eventually formed the Middle Army into three successive lines, with a hundred yards of separation each between them. When the battle was joined, the first line crumbled quickly and the second soon after. The third line held for much longer. Only then did Soulcatcher finally reveal her dreadful battlefield sorcery. Her "deathflower" spells began to instantaneously burn whole lines of Company soldiers in violent flower-shaped flashes. The soldiers were partially melted in such a way that they appeared to be sunken into the earth up to their ankles, hips, or further. Croaker calculated that roughly four or five hundred men died in these traps. Sleepy halted the infantry advance to reevaluate the battlefield.
Meanwhile, the Company attempted to cancel Soulcatcher's power. Croaker and Murgen used fireball projectors to saturate locations where they thought she was hiding. Tobo and the Howler were aboard a flying carpet and were prepared to fight Soulcatcher directly if they could pinpoint her. But she never exposed her location. Then, unlike earlier points in the infantry battle, Soulcatcher's incendiary traps started killing her own men. She was no longer actively maintaining the deathflower spells, so the Company realized something must have happened to their nemesis. They charted a path around Soulcatcher's killing field and turned their airborne power at the Middle Army itself. Shukrat used her rheitgeistiden to soar over the Taglian lines and pummeled them with a fireball projector. Tobo and the Howler dropped firebombs among their ranks.
After the Middle Army retreated, the Black Company unexpectedly discovered Soulcatcher nude and unconscious in her own command tent. She had been overcome by two of her prisoners – the Daughter of Night and the Khadidas – who were assisted by the demon/goddess Kina. The Company took Soulcatcher prisoner but could not revive her.
The Daughter commands the Middle ArmyEdit
Using her aura of seduction and dressed up in Soulcatcher's leathers, the Daughter of Night took control of a significant portion of the Taglian Middle Army. The Company pursued her to thwart her goal of bringing about the Year of the Skulls. They adopted a strategy whereby they forced her to move about quickly, which caused more and more Taglians to fall outside her aura and then abandon the fight.
During this operation, Tobo and the Howler were flung off their flying carpet and injured; they were vulnerable near the Daughter and the Khadidas and required rescue. Shukrat, Croaker, Uncle Doj, Murgen, Thai Dei, and others attempted to execute the rescue without being spotted. But when they were exposed by one of the Howler's unintentional screams, Taglians under the Daughter's seduction aura charged madly at them. Doj and Thai Dei, veteran soldiers, expertly killed numerous attackers, and Shukrat utilized her limited sorcery to great effect. But then the Khadidas burst into the combat to protect the Daughter, and struck Doj and Thai Dei with such power that they went sailing through the air. The impacts were fatal to both. Croaker was only able to chase the Khadidas away by using One-Eye's spear. Tobo and the Howler were pulled out as the Daughter squandered the Middle Army. A handful of Taglians followed the Daughter and the Khadidas but eventually they all drifted away. The two escaped into the Grove of Doom but lacked the materials to transcribe the Books of the Dead.
Failed Voroshk escape attemptEdit
On the night that the Middle Army collapsed, three young Voroshk guests of the Company attempted to flee. Gromovol, Magadan, and Arkana distracted some guards with a primitive disorientation spell, and Gromovol murdered them. Before the three could make their escape or retrieve their magic artifacts, Company soldiers discovered the murders and retaliated. Gromovol was seriously injured, Arkana was raped, and Magadan was killed.
After this victory, the Black Company continued its war against the Protectorate, which was now led by Mogaba (the Great General of Taglios). The next two battles were the Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery and the Siege of Taglios.