- For the first novel of the series, see: The Black Company
|“||You know they are vicious, violent and ignorant. They are complete barbarians, living out their cruelest fantasies, their behaviour tempered only by a few decent men.||”|
The Black Company was the last of the twelve Free Companies of Khatovar and a band of highly trained mercenaries. Their contracts and commissions took them all over the known world, and even beyond into new worlds. A brotherhood of soldiers which was highly respected and feared by allies and foes alike, the Black Company shaped the history of both the northern and southern continents. Its exploits were recorded in the Books of the North, the Books of the South, and the Books of Glittering Stone by the Annalists Croaker, Lady, Murgen, and Sleepy.
Ranks and leaders Edit
The Company was always led by a single Captain, whose second-in-command was the Lieutenant. Their orders were filtered down to the soldiers through the sergeants and corporals. There were also three special ranks, each carrying unique duties: physician, Annalist, and standard-bearer.
The Captain was voted in by the senior members and typically served for life. The Captain tended to groom his or her choice for successor, though the actual selection was still a matter of a vote. Generally, the Lieutenant was the first choice for replacing the role of Captain. On one occasion, the physician and Annalist Croaker was elected Captain, but, in this extraordinary instance, the Company had been reduced to merely 10 men. Years later, another Annalist, Sleepy, was selected to assume the role.
The Company Annalist recorded the exploits of the band and kept a list of the fallen. This historian was also responsible for regular readings from the past Annals, an almost religious ceremony where the brothers of the current Company got in touch with the traditions and struggles from the past.
Military composition Edit
The Black Company was primarily an infantry force. During the forvalaka's attack on the Paper Tower in The Black Company, Croaker described it being composed of halberdier/ pikemen and crossbowmen, and supported by swordsmen.
However the Company was known to use cavalry, as well as other tools at its disposal. For example in the Books of the South, the Prahbrindrah Drah's backing allowed them to complement their forces with war elephants. Siege engines were also used with several members being proficient engineers such as the Lieutenant and Patience.
In addition, the Company had multiple wizards in its ranks throughout its long history. Notably, the brothers One-Eye and Tom-Tom had been sworn brothers decades before the events in Beryl at the start of The Black Company. By the time of Soldiers Live, the Company had Tobo, Lady, Shukrat, and Arkana.
The Black Company attracted recruits from all walks of life and cultures, especially outcasts and even criminals. This gave the Free Company a ragtag, eclectic composition. Many members used nicknames or monikers and were tight-lipped about their pasts. Raven was a shunned aristocrat who had been left for dead by his enemies shortly before joining. Big Bucket joined in order to escape imprisonment after being falsely accused of common theft. Other members had more respectable origins. In Shadow Games, the Company bolstered its numbers with 32 members of the Nar, the respected warrior class of the city Gea-Xle. These were descendants of the Company from when the band had spent 56 years in that city, many generations prior. By this point they also had numerous recruits from various backgrounds, such as 4 Roi nomads including Shadid and Patience; the D'loc Aloc native Wheezer; and the warrior brothers Freak and Geek from K'Hlata.
The Company's diverse makeup was particularly apparent in the Books of Glittering Stone, where the Company had members from virtually every race, religion, and caste from Taglios. This included Riverwalker and Runmust Singh. In addition, a Vehdna Jaicuri, Sleepy, and a Shadowlander, Suvrin, would come to hold its highest ranks. After thousands of young men from Hsien joined the Company, Croaker in Soldiers Live states the brotherhood had never before been so diverse in its entire existence.
Entry into the company was influenced by many factors such as current troop strength, available resources, and individuals in roles of leadership. This does not include the entire armies of non-Company Taglian soldiers commanded by the Company in the Books of Glittering Stone. Nor does this include allied troops and camp followers, most prominently, the Nyueng Bao De Duang bodyguards.
The earliest specified procedure for acceptance into the Company was demonstrated in The Black Company, when Raven's candidacy was evaluated at the Gardens of Opal. It was a simple verbal vote among the senior members, with the Captain having the deciding vote. In this instance, his candidacy was turned down. Later, when Raven reappeared at Elm, the Captain accepted him with a simple verbal permission.
New members would eventually be sworn in by taking an oath of loyalty. The wording of the oath is never specified, and the oath is rarely mentioned in the available Annals. In Shadow Games, when Croaker admits six Imperials into the Company at the boundary of the Lady's Empire, he decides to make a public "production" of the oath. He did not "recall doing anything particularly formal for anyone else before", as this was simply a show to assert his authority over Lady.
Having the sponsorship of a current Company brother is a typical, but certainly not necessary, arrangement. For example, Croaker was successfully sponsored by his friend Elmo. Equally, Raven is allowed to join the company despite his violent actions in Opal. However, his subsequent friendship with the Captain mentioned by Croaker, suggests the Captain may have known of Raven's former status, and perhaps more significantly, his proficiency in minor sorcery. The blood brothers Cletus, Loftus, and Longinus were all sponsored by Murgen. Smiley was sponsored by his uncle, Hagop.
Death was by far the most typical way to leave the Company (whether by combat, disease, or natural causes) throughout most of the Annals. The members considered the Company to be their family, and desertions were rare. But in one atypical event, immediately after the Battle of Juniper, a significant number of newer Company brothers abandoned their oaths and became Imperial regulars. In another instance, at the end of The White Rose, Silent and the three Torque brothers (Stubby, Paddlefoot, and Brother Bear) were permitted to leave the Company by choice.
A significant and very late exception to the "feet-first" rule was the thousands of Company soldiers recruited and trained from Hsien between Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live. Croaker wrote that "many of the soldiers from Hsien had signed on for only one year in the field", indicating a major shift in the way the Company arranged its membership.
Founding and early commissions Edit
Khatovar and the shadowgateEdit
The Company was founded in Khatovar, a city in an entirely different world, independent from what is known as the homeworld. It, and the other Free Companies of Khatovar, were tasked by the priests of the cult of Kina to decide where the Year of the Skulls would take place. They used the Lance of Passion as a shadowgate key to exit Khatovar, safely cross the glittering plain (which links all 16 worlds), and enter the homeworld. Their entry was recorded by the librarians of the ancient city of Kiaulune. The Black Company was the last of several Free Companies to enter the homeworld, but, was the only one to remain there. All the other Free Companies which preceded them returned to Khatovar, and their exits were likewise recorded by the librarians of Kiaulune. Over time, the Company forgot its original mission and became a band of sell-swords, inevitably making their way northward across the southern continent over a period of about 400 years.
Undated commissions and eventsEdit
The following events from the Black Company's history have no historical context:
- The Company was in service to the Archon of Bone during the Revolt of the Chiliarchs. These events were recorded by Annalist Coral in the Book of Set. (Mentioned in The Black Company.)
- The Company was defeated and nearly destroyed in battle along the Bake, in a place called Norssele. Only 104 Company men survived. The Book of Woeg chronicled the Company's history after this event. (Mentioned in Shadows Linger.)
- The Company fought a successful campaign against Chew recorded in an unknown Book of the Annals. (Mentioned in The White Rose).
- The Company was in service to the Syndarchs of Dai Khomena. These events were recorded in the Book of Cloete. (Mentioned in Dreams of Steel.)
In service to the Paingod of Cho'n DelorEdit
After leaving ancient Taglios and heading north, the Black Company's journey took them upriver on the great river. The Company first passed through several cities which no longer existed by Croaker's lifetime. Then, they entered into the service of the Paingod of Cho'n Delor, a city on the great river's east bank. In their second century, and numbering 6,000 strong, they fought for the Paingod in the very bloody Pastel Wars against the Triplet Cities. These events were recorded by four different Annalists: Lees, Agrip, Holm, and Straw. Annalist Straw recorded the fall of Cho'n Delor: despite the apparent power of the Paingod and the military expertise of the Black Company, the Triplet Cities prevailed. However, later stories passed on by descendants of the survivors would state that the people of the Triplet Cities sacrificed themselves to defeat the Paingod.
In service in GoesEdit
After the fall of the Paingod, what remained of the Black Company again went north. They next took a commission to serve the city of Goes. They soundly defeated the rival city of Thresh, which is located just above the great river's Third Cataract, before moving northward. The descendants of Thresh would remember the name of the Black Company many generations later, even though Goes itself would cease to exist for reasons unspecified.
In service in Gea-XleEdit
Later, the Black Company would settle in to the city of Gea-Xle, located 860 miles north of the Third Cataract, where they remained for 56 years. During this time, membership in the Black Company passed from father to son. This city was "one of those rare places the Company walked away from", meaning, the Company did not need to fight its way out. Even in Gea-Xle, however, they were betrayed by a prince. The Company cut his throat and "installed a new, friendly, beholden dynasty and did hang around a few years before that Captain got a wild hair and decided to go treasure hunting". Instead of renewing their commission with Gea-Xle, whoever was the Captain at the time "heard about a treasure mountain up north where the silver nuggets were supposed to weigh a pound" and took the whole group north. They left behind sons who would maintain Company traditions (including writing their own Annals and even worshiping Kina) who would become known as the Nar, the new military caste of the city.
Fall of ShamEdit
The northward-bound Company did not find the fabled silver mountain, but, instead encountered a "lost race of whites" in a city called Sham. Within three days of entering Sham, the place was besieged by a horde of K'Hlata warriors (ancestors of Geek and Freak) who were in a "religious frenzy". The people of Sham suffered immensely and may have been wiped out. The Company lost most of its officers before wiping out the attackers. The Company survivors then fled north to avoid a second horde that was approaching from the south. After Sham, the officer's batons were all lost and were not mentioned again in the Annals until the Company returned to Gea-Xle generations later under Croaker's captaincy.
D'loc Aloc, the Temple, and beyondEdit
The Company continued north, and entered the giant swamps of D'loc Aloc. There, they picked up two important recruits: One-Eye and Tom-Tom, (brothers who were minor wizards). Later, the Company stopped at the Temple of Travellers' Repose for a significant amount of time. At the Temple, the Annalist deposited copies of the available Annals, including the Books of Choe, Te-Lare, Skete, and at least six others.
At unspecified points after One-Eye and Tom-Tom joined, the Company:
- was defeated at the Battle of Urban during an unknown conflict, resulting in the loss of large portions from the Annals;
- participated in the Battle of Torn (mentioned in passing in The Black Company); and,
- participated in the Siege of Tember, by which time the wizard Goblin had already joined the brotherhood.
After leaving the Temple, these next events in the Company's history are known to have occurred in the following order:
- passed through the land of the nomad tribes of the roi
- passed through, served in, or fought against the following cities in order from south to north: Ha-jah, Viege, Teries, Boros, Nab and Nod, Slight, Raxle, Tire, Weeks, Grey, Fratter, and Kale
- entered into service in the city of Padora; just before the commission ended, Croaker (a literate physician) was sponsored by Elmo and was recruited
- entered briefly into service in the city of Rebosa, where Otto and Hagop were recruited
The Black CompanyEdit
In service to the Syndic of BerylEdit
The Black Company was in the service of the Red Syndic, leader of Beryl, the oldest of the Jewel Cities. The Company spent at least two summers serving as his bodyguards against political enemies called the Blues, and poorly trained but potentially mutinous local troops the Urban Cohorts. Eventually, the Syndic of Beryl was slain (presumably by the sergeant Match) during chaotic events in the Paper Tower. The Company then received safe passage and employment by Soulcatcher, the legate of her sister the Lady. Soulcatcher's troops secured the city and engineered its annexation into the Lady's Empire.
In service in the Lady's EmpireEdit
The Company was then transported aboard Soulcatcher's flagship The Dark Wings from Beryl across the Sea of Torments to the city of Opal, on the southern edge of the northern continent. In the Gardens of Opal, the senior members entertained the idea of accepting the enlistment of a mysterious man called Raven. But during the interview, Raven murdered three people associated with the Limper, so they departed. The Captain would later accept Raven into the ranks.
From Opal, they began their march to the northernmost province of Forsberg, which was struggling with a dangerous Rebel leader named Raker. They passed Elm, and then the Tower at Charm. One day after passing the Tower, they flogged a corporal courier from the Limper's army who was disrespectful. Finally they entered Forsberg. There, they witnessed the aftermath of several atrocities perpetrated by the Limper and his forces against the local Forsberger populations.
The main force of the Company held the fortress at Deal in Forsberg, garrisoned at Elm for a week, and later occupied Meystrikt in the Salient. Meanwhile, advance teams participated in operations in Oar and in Roses. After Meystrikt, the Company retreated through the Forest of Cloud and stumbled upon Whisper's hidden base camp there, capturing priceless documents there. The main force entered Lords only to retreat after a fearsome sorcery duel between Soulcatcher and Nightcrawler against Harden and other members of the Rebel Circle of Eighteen. They then fought their way through the Windy Country, crossed the Stair of Tear, and participated in the climactic Battle of Charm.
Six years after the Battle of Charm, the Black Company had been tasked to eliminate the Rebel in Tally, in the distant east. They were suddenly ordered to the Barrowland, then to the far westerly city of Juniper, to help eliminate the Black Castle. An advance team of Company men was flown to Juniper by flying carpet, while the main brotherhood marched across the northern continent and through the Wolander Mountains. Together with the new Taken and the Lady herself, they fought the Battle of Juniper against the Dominator's Black Watchers.
The Captain lost his life trying to defend the senior members of the Company from a secret plot hatched by Whisper and Feather. The senior men left the frigid city by sea before the Battle of Juniper was even finished. The Company rejected the Lady's commission and were now fugitives. Outside the city of Meadenvil, a group led by Croaker (which included Silent, Goblin, Pawnbroker, and Kingpin) ambushed and hacked their pursuer the Limper to pieces. In Chimney and now with the Lieutenant as their leader, they reunited with Elmo and about 70 others who escaped Juniper.
The White RoseEdit
In service to DarlingEdit
After Juniper, Darling and the remnants of the Company trekked for four years across the northern continent until they reached the Plain of Fear. They were hounded by the new Taken the entire way, and suffered a devastating military defeat at the Battle of Queen's Bridge at the hands of the elite Imperial troops of the Nightstalker Brigade. Fully one half of the Company – 100 brothers – were killed there. After arriving in the Plain, they made their headquarters in a stinking cavern called the Hole, and the Taken ceased their pursuit. The Company became the backbone of Darling's New White Rose Rebellion against the Lady's Empire. They had an uneventful two years until the arrival of Tracker and Toadkiller Dog at the beginning of The White Rose.
After the Battle of the Barrowland, the Black Company was now reduced to 10 men: Croaker, One-Eye, Goblin, Silent, Otto, Hagop, as well as 4 men who had enlisted after the original crew first arrived in Opal: Murgen the standard-bearer, and the three Torque brothers (Stubby, Paddlefoot, and Brother Bear). At the Blue Willy, they voted for a replacement commander. Otto voted for Croaker, and with no opposition, Croaker became the captain. His first act was to decide their next course of action would be to return the Company Annals to Khatovar, the fabled origin of their group. Silent and the three Torque brothers were released from the Company to travel east with Darling. Raven remained behind with his friend, an Eternal Guard soldier named Case. Lady, now mortal and without magic, and realizing that she cared deeply for Croaker, expressed a desire to join the Company after setting the affairs of the Empire in order.
Departing the northern continentEdit
The Black Company was now reduced to 6 men: Croaker, One-Eye, Goblin, Otto, Hagop, and Murgen. They escorted the Lady back to the Tower at Charm. Along the way, they captured a group of bandits who had attacked the Falcon of Rail, and turned them over to the Imperial garrison at Vest. After an uneasy 2-week stopover in the Tower, the Company left, headed toward their fabled origin of Khatovar. They were rejoined by the Lady in Opal; she would never return to her Empire. The group accepted Big Bucket, Red Rudy, Candles, and Sparkle into their ranks. Then, they disembarked for Beryl aboard The Dark Wings.
In service to the merchants of Gea-Xle: the great riverEdit
|“||We were not really the Black Company anymore, just rootless men from nowhere headed the same direction.||”|
After passing through Beryl, three brothers (Cletus, Loftus, and Longinus) who had deserted the Urban Cohorts joined the Company with Murgen's sponsorship. After dallying at the Temple of Travellers' Repose, they continued their southward journey. And, their ranks continued to swell: they picked up Wheezer in D'loc Aloc; Geek and Freak in the savannah of the K'Hlata; and Mogaba and 31 other Nar soldiers in the city of Gea-Xle. Croaker accepted a commission from the merchants of Gea-Xle, and the Company defeated a blockade of swamp pirates on a needleteeth-infested portion of the great river. At the end of this battle, their ally Shapeshifter chased away the Howler, the pirate king.
In service to the Prahbrindrah Drah of TagliosEdit
In a city on the great river, the Company was intercepted by a group of 4 strange travelers: Willow Swan, Blade, Cordy Mather, and a mysterious woman who turned out to be the Radisha Drah. This group had been sent by the Prahbrindrah Drah, who was the Prince of Taglios, a sprawling city at the bottom of Croaker's best maps. Croaker reluctantly accepted the Prahbrindrah's commission to militarize Taglios and push back against the Shadowlanders, a group of invaders from the south who were commanded by four sorcerers called the Shadowmasters. Croaker was appointed warlord, or Liberator, of Taglios. With the direction of Lady and Mogaba, the Company trained legions of Taglians in warfare, and marched south.
Joining the Shadowmaster warsEdit
Now prosecuting the Shadowmaster wars, they triumphed over the enemy at the Battle of Ghoja Ford. Pressing onward, they reached the major Shadowlander city called Stormgard (formerly Dejagore). During the first night of the 2-day Battle of Dejagore, the Company and their Taglian legions captured the city. Shapeshifter neutralized Stormbringer, one of the Shadowmasters, and the Company killed them both. The next day, another Shadowmaster called Moonshadow was paralyzed during a pitched battle outside the walls. But despite these victories, the Company and the Taglians were ultimately routed by overwhelming numbers, and their survivors retreated behind the walls. Croaker himself was shot off his black stallion by an arrow. Presumed dead, he was actually abducted by Soulcatcher. The notorious Siege of Dejagore now began.
Siege of Dejagore (Dreams of Steel & Bleak Seasons)Edit
Trapped inside Dejagore, Murgen the Annalist counted only 69 sworn brothers still remaining after their dismal defeat outside the walls. His tally included both factions of the deeply divided Company: the Old Crew and the Nar. He was unaware that Croaker and Lady were still alive, bringing the true total to 71. As the siege continued, the Company suffered further fatalities, including open violence between the two factions, which took the lives of Geek and Endibo.
Murgen and his Old Crew orchestrated the escape of about 600 Nyueng Bao De Duang pilgrims when they finally fled Dejagore. Meanwhile, the Nar were reduced to 17 men by the end of the siege, and of these, 4 would desert the Company permanently (including Mogaba and Khucho).
After the siege, the Company would replenish its ranks with new recruits, primarily from Taglios and Dejagore. Another major development was the new presence of several dozen Nyueng Bao swordsmen of the Path of the Sword. As a matter of honor, these men chose to become bodyguards for Murgen and the other Old Crew who helped rescue their people. Though the Nyueng Bao bodyguards never took the Company oath, they became a significant presence in the Company for years afterward.
Lists of members Edit
|Captains||list of Captains|
|Lieutenants||list of Lieutenants|
|Company wizards||list of wizards|
|Annalists||list of Annalists|
|Physicians & medics||list of physicians & medics|
|Sergeants||list of sergeants|
|all members||list of all members|
- The Black Company is largely based on the free-companies / mercenary bands that existed and operated during 14th / 16th Century Europe.
- The Black Company also shares some similarities with the Spanish conquistadors from the Age of Discovery, particularly in the Books of the South and Books of Glittering Stone.
- A real Black Company existed in Medieval Germany, though they were primarily composed of peasants and knights. They fought alongside the peasants in the 1520's revolt during the Protestant Reformation.