The Black Company
Most or possibly all of the Circle's members seemed to originate from the eastern border of the Lady's Empire, possibly concentrated in Rust and four other major nearby cities: Frost, Ade, Thud, and Barns. The most vicious fighting of the first years of the Lady's war against the Rebels all took place in and around those cities (and the bordering Plain of Fear) until the Circle chose its "northern strategy" later.
A family affair
Only three members of the Circle – Raker, Whisper, and Harden – were described in any detail in Croaker's Annals. Whisper and Harden were cousins, and, Raker and Harden were brothers-in-law. One of Harden's closest associates was his own nephew, Motrin Hanin. Cannon Shear – a Rebel operator who outlived the Circle – was rumored to be another cousin of Whisper. All this suggests that the Circle was comprised of one family or a small handful of them in league, as opposed to a disparate alliance of unrelated individuals.
List of members
Most of the Circle were never encountered by Croaker, and seven of the original eighteen were not even mentioned by name in his chronicles. Also, the Circle replenished its ranks at least twice, to fill the openings left by two deaths among its members. Those whose names made it to Croaker's annals are, in order of mention:
- Feather - not one of the original 18, she was a "recently promoted" replacement instead
- Journey - not one of the original 18, he was a "recently promoted" replacement instead
Far from being a force for good and justice, the Circle was known to use brutal tactics, and many of its most important members were evil. Soulcatcher considered them to be hypocrites. More significantly, the Lady knew many of them were not striving to independently overthrow her imperial rule to establish fair government, but were rather pawns of the Dominator, who was influencing them from deep within his enchanted, subterranean prison in the Barrowland. In the wider context, the Circle was simply the first of several attempts by the Dominator to escape captivity.
The false White Rose
In addition to their massive military campaigns, the Circle used considerable resources to locate the child who was prophesied to be the reincarnation of the White Rose. Their search intensified as the Great Comet grew larger in the sky, but was never successful. At the Battle of Charm, the Circle would falsely proclaim to have found the prophesied White Rose reborn: this was simply a young girl with a shiny glamour illuminating her surroundings. In a twist of irony, the true reincarnation of the White Rose – Darling – was a young girl on the Imperial side. Her power, called the null, was even exposed for the very first time in combat against the Circle. She helped Raven and others in an Imperial formation shake off a Rebel sleep spell that had rendered them unconscious.
Battle of Charm
Several members of the Circle were killed before the climactic Battle of Charm, most prominently: Raker, Harden, Moth, Sidle, Linger, and Parcel. And three of them were kidnapped and enslaved to be the first of the new Taken: Whisper, Feather, and Journey. The Lady confirmed that the remaining members of the Circle were all killed during the Battle of Charm, before the fighting was even finished; by the end of that battle, their armies were utterly defeated as well.
Remnants of the Circle's armies did persist even after the Circle was wiped out at Charm. Cannon Shear, reportedly a cousin of Whisper, would command some Rebels in the far east, near Aloe. Also, a small number of other Rebel fugitives (later known as the "Crater crowd") disarmed and fled the Empire entirely to faraway Juniper.
At least one new local Rebel movement, unrelated to the Circle's forces but no doubt inspired by them, would spring up as the Lady and her new Taken expanded the Empire farther east, into Tally. The man called Neat and the Rebel cells near Tome associated with him were crushed by the Black Company in Shadows Linger.
The Black Company itself would later become the backbone of the next sizable Rebel movement. Under Darling's leadership, the New White Rose Rebellion would have an entirely different unifying spirit than those Rebels who had served the Circle of Eighteen.