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Books of the South Cover

Croaker in the first Widowmaker armor, astride one of the black stallions, by Raymond Swanland

So we were off, them pounding after me at a pace to kill their animals in an hour, my beast barely cantering and, I think, having a good time. I can't recall any other horse I've ridden looking back to check the pursuit and adjusting its pace to remain tantalizingly close.

Croaker, Shadow Games

The black stallions were a special breed of giant, sorcery-enhanced horses that were developed personally by the Lady in the fullness of her powers at the Tower at Charm. The horses were enormous, glossy black, and possessed of incredible stamina and speed. One of these black stallions could run at a flat gallop for days, faster than any normal horse, and not tire out. They were also remarkably intelligent for horses, though no more than a below-average human. According to the Lady their lifespan was around forty years. In the Lady's Empire and beyond, they were "precious beyond belief" and priceless. They were only given to the "greatest champions" of her Empire, and were most commonly seen as mounts for the Ten Who Were Taken and the new Taken. Later, in Shadow Games, the Lady granted 8 of the beasts to Croaker.

The Black Company[]

In the The Black Company, the first black stallion seen by Croaker and mentioned in his Annals was the one carrying a mysterious rider on the Avenue of the Syndics in Beryl, at the head of a procession of 100 armed, foreign veterans. The rider turned out to be Soulcatcher the legate from the Lady's Empire.

The black stallions appeared prominently at the Battle of Charm. In the midst of the battle, Feather, one of the new Taken, leaped off a wall riding one of the black stallions, and made a safe landing that would have killed any normal horse. A few minutes later, Soulcatcher kicked Journey of his own black stallion and commandeered the beast. Croaker and the Lady each rode a black stallion in pursuit of the traitor. They charged through the Rebel encampment and into the countryside, through one of the valleys west of Charm. The pursuit was so intense that the stallions belonging to Croaker and the Lady ran themselves to death, both with "fist-sized black burns upon their throats". It is also possible the beasts were victims of Soulcatcher's sorcery.

The Silver Spike[]

Back in the Lady's Empire, four black horses drew the carriage of Exile, a powerful sorcerer in service to the Tower, to Oar. Six of his escorts also rode black horses. It is possible that these were of the same breed.

Shadow Games[]

Lady with stallion by Виталий Стрелец

Lady with a black stallion, fan art by Виталий Стрелец

When Lady secretly abdicated her Empire and headed south with the Black Company in Shadow Games, she gifted eight such horses along with one of her iron carriages to Croaker. The beasts brought them many hundreds of miles southward until they reached Gea-Xle on colossal great river. For most of the journey from that point onward until Taglios, the stallions were kept inside river vessels. The most prominent of these was the fortified river barge which took them all from Gea-Xle to a city 860 miles to the south known as Thresh, located just above the Third Cataract. The horses were terrified when this barge was struck by a large stone flung at the vessel by the Howler during the Company's battle against him and his pirates in the needleteeth-infested swamp.

After they reached Taglios, the stallions brought the carriage to the Taglian olive grove and mineral baths, where Willow Swan introduced Croaker and Lady to the Prince, the Prahbrindrah Drah. When the Company scouted the Main river to the south, Croaker's black stallion kept him away from a sizable rabble of Shadowlanders who had been sent to assassinate him by six of Longshadow's shadowweavers. The beast kept him at a safe enough distance while he shot at them with his special black bow.

The stallions were present at the Battle of Dejagore. At the prelude to the battle, Murgen rode his stallion dangerously close to the walls of Dejagore. He, Croaker, Goblin, and some others were saved from Stormshadow's lightning bolts only by the direct intervention of Shapeshifter.

Dreams of Steel and Bleak Seasons[]

Following the Company's terrible defeat on the second day of the Battle of Dejagore, the magnificent horses were scattered:

  • Two were taken by Soulcatcher to carry herself and Croaker when she masqueraded as her sister, Lady.
  • Four more were summoned from afar by Lady using her newly regained magical talent; these were put to use as she built a new band of followers. These four drew her carriage to the meeting with the Prince at the opulent grove, where she foiled Chandra Chan Tal's assassination attempt.
  • One was claimed by Shadowspinner in time for the Siege of Dejagore. Loftus attempted to assassinate Shadowspinner by firing One-Eye's spear from a ballista, but the weapon passed through the stallion's shoulder instead of its rider. Although a normal horse would have perished in moments, the sorcery in the magically-bred stallion's bones conflicted with the spells from the spear, causing it to die an agonizing death from a wound that "glowed red, flickered" and spread across its flesh.
  • The eighth horse was never found.

She Is The Darkness[]

The six surviving horses in the southern continent remained with the Black Company throughout the Shadowmaster wars against Longshadow, generally used by the senior northern officers.

Murgen loaned his stallion to Sleepy to deliver a personal message to Ky Sahra at the Vinh Gao Ghang Temple of Ghanghesha. As Sleepy would recall later in Water Sleeps, during this trip the beast "covered the distance between Taglios and Ghoja on the River Main in a day and a night without hurrying", which was a newly-paved highway known as the Rock Road. With normal animals that particular distance could be covered in 8 days. Sleepy and this horse were later captured by Soulcatcher. The stallion was found almost a year later when Uncle Doj located and freed Sleepy.

At least two of the other horses were brought onto the glittering plain with the Company. Following Soulcatcher's release by Willow Swan (whom she seduced with a "love me" spell inherited as a woman of the Senjak family), two black stallions were stolen by her after she trapped the Company leadership in the cave of the ancients beneath the plain. She and Swan rode the beasts off the plain back into the homeworld.

Water Sleeps[]

It is unspecified what happened to the two stallions Soulcatcher and Willow Swan rode off the plain, nor how Soulcatcher managed to capture the horse belonging to Sleepy.

By the time of Water Sleeps, only one stallion remained. This one was the steed of the Great General Mogaba when he appeared with his Third Territorial Division on the road between Taglios and the Grove of Doom (chapter 49). The animal was "in outstanding health" and "bored" despite its age. This particular horse, however, was the one that Sleepy rode in prior years. It recognized Sleepy on the road, seeing through her disguise, and even winked at her. The horse later broke out of its stall in Taglios and ran hundreds of miles to rejoin Sleepy. It then traveled with the Company across the glittering plain and into the alien world of Hsien, during which it often carried the elderly and infirm wizard One-Eye. Sleepy noted that "the horse seemed bored. I suppose it was tired of adventures."

Soldiers Live[]

The remaining stallion lived with the Company in Hsien until they returned to the homeworld. It was the only known survivor of the eight which had made the southward trip from the Tower at Charm in Shadow Games. Its use was reserved primarily for Sleepy, the current Black Company Captain, but it was also ridden by Tobo on occasion as well. The horse's final fate was unspecified in the Annals, but Sleepy was likely riding the beast when Mogaba's hellish and inescapable trap at the Siege of Taglios was sprung.

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