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Black Company skull standard Raymond Swanland

From Raymond Swanland's cover art for the The Books of the South omnibus

The standard, or banner, of the Black Company was a critical piece of the Company's history, and a major psychological component of its presence on the battlefield or on the march. Throughout much of the series, the banner was a fire-breathing skull on a black field as described below. But this was actually the band's second standard.

The standard was hung from a 4-foot long crosspiece that was attached to the 12-foot Lance of Passion, a priceless Company relic which turned out to be a shadowgate key. The role of standard-bearer, charged with carrying the banner into combat and protecting it, was a deeply respected position in the Company.

The first standard[]

Black Company first standard by Heru Talon

Fan art of the historic, "forgotten" first standard

The Black Company's first standard was not described in any detail until the final chronicle, Soldiers Live. However, this would have been their banner in the first chapter of The Black Company (during their service to the Syndic of Beryl). It had the following characteristics:

A field of scarlet with nine hanged men in black and six yellow daggers in the upper left and lower right quadrants, respectively, while the upper right quandrant featured a shattered skull and the lower left boasted a bird astride a severed head. It might have been a raven. Or an eagle.

Croaker confessed that the meaning and origin of these symbols were nowhere to be found in any of the Annals he had access to. However it is known that the earliest generations of the Black Company considered the standard to be a "tutelary deity". The last known example of this standard – centuries-old and "damned ragged" – was kept by the Nar of Gea-Xle, and turned over to Croaker in Shadow Games. Croaker considered recreating the original banner when he and the Company exited the Hsien shadowgate and entered the glittering plain. The first standard was apparently lost or discarded, and its design utterly forgotten by all except him by the time of Soldiers Live.

This banner was replaced with the newer, much more famous one, sometime shortly after the Company took the contract with Soulcatcher in service of the Lady.

The second standard[]

Black Company standard by Виталий Стрелец

Fan art of the second, more well-known standard, by Виталий Стрелец

Throughout most of the Annals, the standard used by the Black Company was adapted from the personal seal of Soulcatcher, their new sponsor after Beryl. Murgen described it as follows in She Is the Darkness:

...the black banner bearing the device we had adopted in the north, the silver skull exhaling golden flames that originated as Soulcatcher's personal seal. The skull was not human because it had exaggerated canine teeth. No lower jaw was present. One eye-socket was scarlet. In some representations that was the right eye, in some the left. I have been assured there is significance to that but nobody ever told me what. It may have had something to do with Soulcatcher's changeable nature.

This was the same sigil on the mainsail of Soulcatcher's flagship, The Dark Wings, and on the badges she pinned on each of the Black Company men as they set sail to cross the Sea of Torments for the first time.

After the standard went missing in the Battle of Dejagore, Lady used the hollowed-out head of the Shadowmaster called Shadowspinner as the Company's temporary totem in Dreams of Steel. The banner remained in use, somewhat ironically, when the Company went to war with Soulcatcher herself in the Kiaulune wars and the subsequent war chronicled in Soldiers Live.

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