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Soldiers live. And wonder why.

–Croaker, Soldiers Live

Croaker is one of the central figures of the Black Company during the roughly 40 year period of its history explored in the Books of the North, the Books of the South, and the Books of Glittering Stone. He was established as the Company's primary physician and also its respected Annalist by the time the Company is in service to the Syndic of Beryl, and, he served in these capacities through the Battle of the Barrowland. It is during this period that he first meets the Lady, the empress of the northern empire. Throughout the Books of the North, his opinions of her evolve as his experiences mount up... beginning with romantic infatuation, then maturing to abiding aversion, genuine fear, cautious ambivalence, and finally, true love. Croaker eventually begins an enduring romance with the Lady, which persists despite dramatic developments.

Following the reduction of the Black Company to merely six men after the final battle with the Dominator, Croaker is voted to become Captain. Heading toward Khatovar, he leads the group on an odyssey through the southern continent. He is commissioned to become the Liberator of Taglios, and with the help of his wife Lady, prosecutes the Shadowmaster wars to eventual victory. He remains in command until being imprisoned in the cave of the ancients underneath the fortress with no name by Soulcatcher. Upon his release, he no longer considers himself mentally sound, so he surrenders command. He does resume his duties as physician and Annalist until his final encounter with the ancient golem Shivetya.

A remarkable polyglot, Croaker became conversational (and sometimes literate) in numerous languages throughout his travels, including the Jewel Cities dialect, Forsberger, Aloen, Darling's finger speech, the language of Juniper, and the Taglian language. He is the narrator of: all three Books of the North; Shadow Games; Soldiers Live; significant portions of Port of Shadows; and, all but 1 of the short stories of the On The Long Run arc (excluding only "Chasing Midnight"). Because of his natural curiosity and his role as Annalist, Croaker directly inserted himself into many of the Black Company's more significant operations.

Before The Black Company[]

Early family life[]

Croaker revealed few details about his life in the time before the Company was in service to the Syndic of Beryl. The handful of details of his birth family paint an unhappy picture.

As he traveled south in Shadow Games, he wrote that he was born in a "great crossroads of trade routes" just south of the city of Padora, which is less than 300 miles south of Beryl (the largest of the Jewel Cities). He recalled hiding under tables as a child when his father would have his frequent, but brief, flashes of explosive rage. He would inherit this trait, albeit to a lesser extent. In Port of Shadows he remembered that his mother occasionally threatened to rip off his arm and brain him with it, and that his sisters more often received this same threat. "None of those people gave a damn about what had become of me," he wrote, when reminiscing about his birth family.

Toubib Croaker Black Company by Altie

Fan art by Altie

In Dreams of Steel, his wife Lady mentioned that at the age of approximately 45, his face still bore the scars of a childhood pox, as well as "more than a few memories of acne". Like Otto and Hagop in nearby Rebosa, Croaker had a polytheistic upbringing. But he would outgrow this faith, replacing it with a kind of jaded skepticism of all religion and a disdain for priestly doctrines of any kind. His first language is not specified, but it does not seem to have been the Jewel Cities dialect, as Murgen would later specify that dialect was only later "picked up when [the Company] was in service to the Syndic of Beryl". Also in his youth, he learned a few words of the native language of the nomad tribe called the roi. This was presumably one of the earliest demonstrations of his natural gift of picking up new languages.

Physician's oath and Company oath[]

In The White Rose, Croaker wrote that he learned medicine from a "toothless ancient" whom he did not identify by name. At this young age, as he recalled in "Bone Eaters", he took his "first do no harm" oath while he still had a "caul of idealism" across his eyes.

When he joined the Company in Padora, his older friend Elmo was his sponsor. He may have been as young as 16 years of age when he enlisted, according to some statements he made in "Those Who Went Before" decades later ("I've been with the Company since I was only a little older than Spangler" who was "fifteen years old, almost sixteen" at the time of this conversation). He was hired to be the Company's physician, and only later took on the additional role of Annalist. Like many Black Company recruits, he did not use his birth name for signing up, and even the Captain would never learn (nor care to learn) Croaker's actual name. Sometime during his first year with the Company, he saw elephants for the first time in his life (and would not see them again until the war elephants of the Battle of Charm). Croaker's predecessor as Annalist assured him that the deadly wizard called Silent did indeed speak in the past, but by the time of Croaker's arrival, Silent had already taken his mysterious namesake vow.

Books of the North[]

The Black Company[]


Croaker Writing

Croaker composing some Annals, image from The Black Company Campaign Setting

The Black Company for several years have been in service to the Syndic, the ruler of the coastal city of Beryl on the southern continent. However, the contract had long since turned sour, with violence and disorder having spread throughout the city at an accelerating rate.

As chief physician of the Black Company, Croaker is treating Curly for poisoning before questioning him for places that he has been eating outside their Company's quarters. He successfully identifies the Mole Tavern as the location of the poisoners. They have already killed two other sworn brothers – Walleye and Wild Bruce – and Croaker recently saved a third victim, Pokey, from the effects of the poison. He reports his findings directly to the Captain. Subsequently, a strike team led by the platoon sergeant named Mercy and a dozen men are sent to deal with them, with Croaker and the wizard Silent in support. They confront Verus, the tavern owner, and kill and capture many Blues, a faction in Beryl that is opposed to the Syndic (who is the leader of the Reds).

Croaker survives the city-wide chaos and bloodshed that rips through Beryl in the subsequent days. He is part of the group of Company veterans which stalks through the Paper Tower in search of the forvalaka that has slain dozens and seems to be hunting the Syndic. Tom-Tom is mauled by the monster and his wounds are far too grievous even for Croaker's experienced hands. After the Syndic is killed, the Company honors a new contract with a mysterious legate from the northern empire that is on the other side of the Sea of Torments. They set up camp at the Pillar of Anguish, where Croaker parts ways with his local lover:

I spent a sad, gentle hour with a woman to whom I meant more than I suspected. We shed no tears and told one another no lies. I left her with memories and most of my pathetic fortune. She left me with a lump in my throat and a sense of loss not wholly fathomable.

They all board the gigantic vessel called The Dark Wings and set sail for Opal in the mysterious northern continent. The legate mentions the Lady, and Croaker realizes he and the Company are now in the service of an infamous evil sorceress. With his historian's insights, he shares some frightening details about their new employer. The legate is Soulcatcher, one of the fearsome Ten Who Were Taken. As he speaks, the terrifying sounds of the caged forvalaka rattle them all.

The Lady's Empire[]

Having traversed the Sea of Torments, the Company arrives in Opal and is apprised of the Empire's grueling war against a powerful Rebel movement. At an aristocratic establishment called the Gardens, Croaker and the other senior Company members meet a native of the city, Raven, and vote to accept or reject him. The group is confronted by Lord Jalena, a very influential Imperial staff general. After they learn that Raven is entangled in some dangerous intrigues, Croaker is his only supporter. Then they witness Raven slay three people aligned with the Limper, including his own wife. They hustle out and march north.

Croaker standing

Croaker fan art by Mikey Patch

On the route north toward their objective, the fortress at Deal, Croaker searches a burnt-out town with Elmo, Raven, and some others. There, they discover that some of the Limper's drunken men are engaged in torturing and raping civilians. He and Raven forcibly break up the particularly gruesome scene, and rescue a young girl named Darling and her aged grandfather Flick. Two of the Limper's men are killed, and the Captain arrives to defuse the situation.

Croaker insists on personally accompanying Elmo and others in Oar after their supply patrol, headed by Candy, does not report back on time. They discover that two of the Limper's enforcers – Colonel Zouad and Captain Lane – had hired local thugs to kidnap Raven. One of the Limper's enemies among the Taken, Shapeshifter, arrives. Shifter has three Company men assist him in conducting a secret operation to discredit and embarrass the Limper, in addition to dealing a blow to the Rebel. Shapeshifter transforms himself to look like Cornie (a local Rebel informant), and then uses a glamour to disguise the Company brothers: Raven looks like the Rebel general Harden (one of the most important members of the Circle of Eighteen); Elmo looks like Field Major Reef (Harden's chief-of-staff); and Croaker looks like Motrin Hanin (Harden's nephew and a vicious assassin). With this group, Croaker infiltrates a Rebel stronghold where Colonel Zouad is being tortured. The Limper appears in person to attempt to rescue the good Colonel, but is buried beneath the collapsing Rebel structure by Shapeshifter with Croaker's help, exacerbating the enmity between the Company and the Limper.

Croaker next accompanies a party of Company soldiers – along with the wizards One-Eye and Goblin – to the city of Roses. There, with the help of Soulcatcher, they lay a trap for a troublesome Rebel general named Raker. Using several of Raker's hairs, the wizards set up a throne-like pedestal in a busy intersection along with a fortune in gold and silver, offering the bounty to anyone who delivers Raker's head to the pedestal. Tensions mount in Roses as Croaker and his companions watch from the periphery while Raker loses credibility by the day.

Eventually, Raker knifes longtime company man Hagop, and Croaker and Raven go after him. Between the two, they slay Raker, and claim Soulcatcher's bounty for themselves. Soon after, the Limper arrives, claiming that the money was wrongfully taken from his own war chest, and demanding its return. Soulcatcher arrives moments before the situation boils over, and wonders aloud why Limper has abandoned his post in Elm, which suffered a Rebel uprising in his absence. Embarrassed and afraid of being punished by the Lady, the Limper flees, once again having gotten the worst of a run-in with the Black Company.

Croaker by De Prime

Croaker fan art by De Prime

In the Forest of Cloud, Croaker was able to read some documents recovered by the Company from a Rebel division they had ambushed. Instantly, he recognizes that they have recovered the entire campaign strategy of the top Rebel commander, Whisper, and he commands a more detailed search of the area. Further searching unearths a trove of older documents that contain information from the age of the Domination. He is told by Soulcatcher that the documents contain her own true name, as well as those of three other Taken, and perhaps that of the Lady as well. 

Because of Croaker's coup in recovering the documents for the Empire, he is assigned along with Raven to personally deal with Whisper and the Limper. He learns that the Limper has betrayed the Lady, causing the north to fall to the Rebel, because Whisper uncovered his true name. Croaker and Raven lay in hiding with special arrows, and successfully ambush both Whisper and the Limper. Croaker witnesses the personal arrival of the Lady, of whom he is in awe, but vomits during her extensive torture of the Limper. After the traitor is flown away by the Lady's giant dragonfly demon to the Tower at Charm, Croaker witnesses the Taking of Whisper. This is the first time the spell has been performed since the Dominator took the Ten during the Domination. It will also be the first of at least three times Croaker himself is subjected to the Lady's Eye.

Croaker was absent from the Company during the siege of Lords, but joined up with them soon after they fled. During the defense of the Stair of Tear, Croaker and Raven are once again tapped by Soulcatcher for a special forces raid. They accompany Soulcatcher as well as Stormbringer and the Hanged Man to assassinate the Rebel general Harden. Croaker begins to see the Taken's strategy, as they focus on wiping out the Rebel leadership, the so-called Circle of Eighteen, leaving the White Rose Rebellion without the sorcery necessary to battle back against the Lady and her minions. Although Harden is assassinated when he falls into a trap set by Shapeshifter, he hurls his sword in desperation, which fatally wounds the Hanged Man. After Harden's death, Croaker is witness to Soulcatcher and Stormbringer leaving the Hanged Man to die. He is threatened into silence by Soulcatcher, and readily agrees that he saw nothing. However, from this point forward, Croaker is afraid that what he knows will put him in danger.

Next Croaker accompanies a group led by the Lieutenant to capture Feather and Journey, new inductees into the Circle of Eighteen. The Company infiltrates the town where the couple are honeymooning and takes them without trouble. However, during the return trip to Charm, they nearly run afoul of a Rebel regiment, and a suspiciously off-target sorcery: a length of lime-green thread deadly to the touch. They are eventually evacuated by the Howler on his oversize large flying carpet, but Croaker is left with the impression that at least some of the Taken no longer have his best interests at heart.

At Charm[]

Croaker by Towed Jumper

Croaker, holding the black bow gifted by the Lady, fan art by Towed Jumper

At the Tower at Charm, Croaker is nearly killed once again when a siege ballista, being set up for the inevitable Rebel assault, goes off without explanation and takes him in the shoulder, severing an artery. Fortunately, a Tower Guardsman at hand applies a tourniquet and rushes Croaker to an Imperial sorcerer-physician. After receiving treatment, Croaker is taken before the Lady. He meets her in the inner tower, an enclosed block of stone which can only be entered at the Lady's invitation. She presents a beautiful image, taken directly from a romantic portrait of the Lady that he had written some time before, and subjects him to a deep probe of his thoughts with her Eye. Afterward, however, she heals his serious injury and returns him to the Company. 

During the Battle of Charm, Croaker is summoned by the Lady once more. She tells him to record events in a factually correct way, so that in at least one account, her story will not be marred by the bias of later historians. She also presents him with a magnificent black bow and a quiver of special silver-headed black arrows much like the ones he and Raven were issued to incapacitate Limper and Whisper in the Forest of Cloud. At the battle's finale, Croaker personally accompanies the Lady on the backs of black stallions as they pursue the fleeing Soulcatcher. Croaker hits Soulcatcher with several arrows, and then delivers a massive two-handed sword stroke that decapitates the Taken. He is deeply shaken, however, when he sees Soulcatcher's face for the first time, and discovers that she was, in fact, the Lady's sister. His romantic fascination with the Lady is expelled.

In the aftermath of the battle, Croaker and Silent discover for certain that Darling is actually the reincarnation of the White Rose, the woman who defeated the Dominator and the Lady and interred them in the Barrowland 400 years prior. It is a secret that is worth far more than their lives. Although it saddens Croaker to part ways with two people he counted as friends, he understands when Raven takes Darling and flees.

Port of Shadows[]

In Port of Shadows – which took place during the 6 years between The Black Company and Shadows Linger – Croaker and the Black Company served the Empire in Aloe. He lived with Mischievous Rain, ostensibly one of the new Taken, and spent much time with a pair of odd children called Baku and Shin who bizarrely claimed to be his own children with Mischievous Rain. He participated in several operations against Resurrectionists, Rebel operators, and prehistoric buried sorcerers in Honnoh and the Ghost Country. His memories of these events, as well as the memories of apparently everyone else involved, were almost fully erased by a mysterious sorcery-related phenomenon.

Shadows Linger[]

Croaker Serbian Shadows Linger

Croaker inside the Iron Lily, illustration from the interior art of the Serbian translation of Shadows Linger

After Charm, Croaker and the Black Company go about the business of purging the White Rose Rebellion wherever they may still be found. He notes that the Company does not really believe in the Lady's cause, and that after the unimaginable bloodshed of Charm, there seems to be a malaise creeping over the whole brotherhood. They are beginning to lose the spirit that is part of what makes them so formidable. Before he can conjure up a solution to the problem, Croaker is whisked away to a far-off city called Juniper along with a party of Company men, including Elmo and Goblin, at the Lady's request.

In Juniper, Croaker learns about the growing threat of the black castle, a strange fortification being constructed by menacing humanoids in the service of the Dominator. Using dead bodies, for which they pay a hefty fee, the creatures are planning to construct a portal through which the Dominator can be summoned out of his enchanted barrow, returning at full strength to the world. Croaker is assigned to learn who is selling bodies and put a stop to the whole business. Unfortunately, Croaker discovers that Raven selected Juniper to flee to, and he strongly suspects - correctly - that Raven has been doing the body selling in order to finance his escape from the Lady's Empire.

Working more to put the Taken off Raven's trail than anything, Croaker engineers a raid upon a handful of White Rose survivors in Juniper. Although they had also sold a handful of bodies, the Taken quickly determine that the Rebels are not the main source of corpses that is powering the black castle. Croaker and his team try to locate Raven, but are unsuccessful, as he first goes into deep hiding, and then escapes from the city. With Raven gone, the Company turn their attention toward isolating the black castle. Croaker personally takes control of a roadside observation post along the road up to the fortress. Although several more bodies are delivered, they soon capture Marron Shed and Lisa Bowalk, the last corpse sellers in business. From Shed, Croaker learns most of the details of what had transpired in Juniper, which he believes were important enough to the Company's dealings and eventual fate that he transcribes Shed's account into the Annals. 

Croaker by Kira Mayer

Croaker fan art by Kira Mayer

The rest of the Black Company arrives in Juniper and, together with the Taken, lay siege to the black castle. Croaker runs a field surgery with a good view of the battle and is in a good position to observe most of what occurs during the Battle of Juniper. Near the end of the battle, Croaker receives secret instructions from the Captain by way of Silent, ordering he and most of the 'old' Company brothers to flee the city immediately on a ship headed south, because Limper and Whisper are planning to make good their revenge with the Dominator's threat ended.

The Lieutenant and most of the Company who are either wanted by the Limper or know information dangerous to the Lady manage to escape south to Meadenvil. However, the Captain is unable to slip away, and instead he steals the Lady's carpet and crashes it into the ocean, leaving the Lady without a good means of pursuing the fleeing Black Company. She appears to Croaker in his dreams, asking him to return, but he answers, in essence, that being betrayed by the Taken was the last straw for him and his fellows.

Left with no other real options, the Black Company defect to the side of the White Rose. Making their escape, they encounter the Limper once again, whom they drag from his horse in a carefully staged ambush. Croaker and his comrades hack the Taken to pieces and hang him before fleeing to Chimney, a major harbor city. Six years later, they would learn they were not thorough enough, and underestimated Limper's incredible vitality.

On The Long Run short story arc[]

Croaker is the Annalist for all but one of the short stories that constitute the On The Long Run story arc: "Cranky Bitch", "Leta of the Thousand Sorrows", "Wet Dream Fish Story", "Those Who Went Before", "Shaggy Dog Bridge", and "Bone Eaters". These events take place during the first 4 years of the 6-year gap between Shadows Linger and The White Rose. Also, at some unspecified point during these 4 years, the Black Company suffers the Battle of Queen's Bridge, and Croaker loses many of his papers from the Annals.

"Cranky Bitch"[]

Croaker supplied the name of the Black Company's ship, Cranky Bitch. He chronicles their time in service to the Houses of Istven and the Seamen's Guild of Chimney, which includes 4 trips across the Gap, 3 small sea battles against the desperate pirates of the Pocatose, and the killing of one of the new Taken at sea. During this time, Croaker meets "Lacksluck" and "Luckless", two strange teenagers who became the cooks aboard the Bitch. But neither Croaker nor anyone else in the Company realizes the twins were Baku and Shin, two supernatural children they became acquainted with during Port of Shadows.

"Leta of the Thousand Sorrows"[]

The Black Company has disembarked from Cranky Bitch for the last time, and they are now traveling across the wild untamed landscape known as the western wilderness with the new Taken on their trail. In "Leta of the Thousand Sorrows", Croaker describes the band's stopover at a clearing where supernatural women are crafted by ancient sorcery emanating from the ground. The women ("Letas") bed the men to increase their substantiality and also to defend the Company from the Taken. They all eventually disappear except for Croaker's Leta... until she too unexpectedly vanishes in a heartbreaking final encounter.

"Wet Dream Fish Story"[]

In "Wet Dream Fish Story", Croaker records the details of the Black Company's encounter with mysterious, shape-shifting river mermaids and their mortal enemies: a trio of centuries-old mermaid hunters named Adelin, Honra, and Eisen Fisher. While the Company restores a pair of old bridges, Croaker treats numerous injured people, including a particularly unlucky Juniperean sailor called Shadow. He is present when a Choudaner named Tedd interprets for the Fishers, and later when Showboy resurfaces after being taken underwater by the mermaid Dai-Li three days prior. During both of these events, the Company learns the old secret of the immortality of the Lady and the Ten Who Were Taken: they had consumed mermaid meat supplied by the Dominator.

Croaker – at the reigns of his one-horse medical wagon with Darling by his side – witnesses firsthand three mermaids leap in turn from the river onto the bridge (revealing eight feet of fish tail below the waist), shape-shift into human form in midair, and seize the Fishers to kill them in the water. Though Croaker considers Showboy to be the Company's "dimmest candle", he is deeply impressed with Showboy's choice to destroy the mermaid jerky left behind by the Fishers.

"Those Who Went Before"[]

Deep in the western wilderness, Croaker and the Company pass through an old, sorcery-charged cemetery called the Grand Memorial to Our Honored Dead in "Those Who Went Before". There, Croaker is the first to realize that the main chamber of the huge limestone building within the burial grounds protects visitors from the malevolent sorcery that is emanating from the thousands of memorial posts. He is intentionally left behind with two unconscious victims of the sorcery, including Spangler (one of his new medical assistants from Chimney). When Spangler awakens in a fugue state and attempts to touch a memorial post again, the physician saves him by hustling the young man into the echoey chamber of the limestone building. With a dead man's memories, Spangler confirms this graveyard was created by a culture that fought against the Dominator centuries ago. Though the other unnamed victim disappears, Croaker and Spangler catch up with the Company two days later.

"Shaggy Dog Bridge"[]

Croaker accompanies a reconnaissance team led by Elmo to the Rip during "Shaggy Dog Bridge". He becomes exposed to the horrible memories of an ancient sorceress called Blind Emon, and witnesses part of her airborne battle against Whisper and several of the new Taken. Later, he takes part in an operation with Emon which ends in hundreds of Imperial soldiers being thrown from an ancient bridge.

"Bone Eaters"[]

In "Bone Eaters", Croaker records the details of his promising new assistant, Chasing Midnight, and the Black Company's encounter with the lethal spirits of the Village of Hungry Ghosts. Armed with his special black bow and with Elmo, Otto, Hagop, and Rusty at his side, Croaker is part of the nucleus of bodyguards that surrounds Darling during their successful operation against the supernatural entities.

The White Rose[]

Croaker by Виталий Стрелец

Croaker fan art by Виталий Стрелец

After 4 years on the long run, Croaker and other survivors form the core of the New White Rose Rebellion hidden within a cavern called the Hole in the Plain of Fear. There, for 2 mostly uneventful years, they slowly organize, building contacts in cities under the Lady's control, in what they consider to be a fairly hopeless campaign to ultimately topple the Lady. In addition to their political strategy, Croaker has also brought the documents recovered from Whisper to their hole, which he works tirelessly to translate and search, in an effort to discover the Lady's true name

During this time, Croaker begins to receive oil-skin packets containing a narrative written and sent by an unknown party, which detail the work of the wizard Bomanz in the Barrowland. Bomanz is known to have released the Lady from imprisonment, who then turned against her husband and sealed him still more completely, before releasing the Taken into her service. However, the account of Bomanz's work is strikingly personal, and reveals a great deal of new information about his final days, and how the Lady came to be free. Although interesting, Croaker initially cannot see much purpose in the narrative. 

Eventually, however, Croaker realizes that some of the documents recovered from Whisper are missing. He believes that the story of Bomanz is being drawn from those documents, and suggests an expedition to the Barrowland. Darling quickly realizes the necessity of the idea, and sends Croaker, along with Goblin and One-Eye, and the mysterious Tracker and Toadkiller Dog, to the Barrowland.

Croaker assumes the fictitious persona of "Candle", a trader from Roses and a veteran of Colonel Lot's Drake Crest brigade. After deceiving the Eternal Guard at the Barrowland, Croaker and his companions discover that the author of the story and the sender of the packets is none other than Raven, returned from faking his death yet again, and frantically researching both the Lady and the Dominator. They also discover that the Great Tragic River is in constant flood and is literally eating away the Barrowland, and that for reasons unknown Raven attempted to penetrate the Barrowland in an astral form. Shortly after, the team's cover is broken and they are seized by Monitor Sweet and his Guardsmen. The wizards use their tricks to effect an escape. But later, Croaker is captured by the Taken while Tracker, Toadkiller Dog, and the wizards continue their escape.

Imprisoned in the familiar fortress at Deal, Croaker is rescued from what promises to be an agonizing death at the hands of Whisper and the Limper only by the direct intervention of the Lady. She soon bears him off to the Tower at Charm. There, she once again probes his deepest memories with her Eye, and demands to know what sort of monsters he and his companions set loose from the Barrowland. Confused, Croaker has no answers for her. 

The Lady offers Croaker a deal. Since it is now too late to stop the Dominator from eventually emerging from his prison, she wishes to search Croaker's document stash for the Dominator's true name, as well as to negotiate at least a temporary peace between her forces and the White Rose. Croaker initially balks, not trusting her motives, but is easily convinced when the Lady offers to personally accompany him into Darling's magic absorption field to do her work in person.

Croaker escorts the Lady back to the Hole, where she poses as a traveling companion who can read TelleKurre and whose name is, in a fit of black humor, 'Ardath' after the Lady's own dead sister. While on the Plain, the Lady and Croaker's relationship grows closer. Croaker believes that, if he had the stones for it, he could have become 'more than a pretend boyfriend' to her. In spite of all of her power, her dark nature, and her near-immortality, the Lady has never had a friend, and is as smitten with Croaker as he continues to be with her, though neither party will admit to it.

The Barrowland[]

Croaker and Lady by Pti-SPB Olga Sluchanko

Croaker and the Lady embrace for the first time, before Battle of the Barrowland, fan art by Pti-SPB (Olga Sluchanko)

Croaker is present at the negotiations between the Lady and Darling, but does not recall their details, as the Lady modifies his memory afterwards. He personally accompanies the Lady, along with the forces of the White Rose and the Empire to the Barrowland to see the matter of the Dominator put to rest. There, he comforts the Lady as she is finally forced to confront - perhaps for the first time - the real possibility of her death. Although both are terrified, they draw strength from one another, and once again the Lady provides him with black arrows that can actually wound the Dominator.

During the battle, Croaker stays right by the Lady's side, even piercing the Dominator with an arrow from her first gift to him, the magnificent black bow. When Limper finally betrays her, incorrectly naming her as Credence and shooting her with a crossbow, he goes into a mad fit of rage and 'kills' the Limper once more, kicking his severed head into a pit. After the Lady names Darling's name and in turn is named by Silent, removing both of them as great powers of the world, Croaker defends the Lady's right to live. In the end, when Raven moves to kill the Lady, Croaker even shoots him in the hip.

With the Black Company dramatically reduced to only six brothers, Croaker is nominated by Otto to be their new Captain during their official convocation at the Blue Willy inn. He claims that he does not want the job, but it seems that all the others want it even less. As Captain, Croaker, perhaps already being motivated by an unseen, subtle external force, sets the Company on the road south toward their fabled origin, Khatovar.

Books of the South[]

Shadow Games[]

Books of the South Cover

Croaker in his Widowmaker armor by Raymond Swanland.

On his way south Croaker escorts Lady back to the Tower at Charm, helping her conceal the fact that she is no longer a sorceress. She wishes to join their journey to Khatovar, but has a lot of things to take care of. Croaker is given the rank of general and is named a diplomatic legate answerable only to the Lady herself. To accept these commissions, the Lady insists that he supplies his birth name, but he has been known as Croaker for so long that he actually has to take a moment to remember it. Using his new authority, he commissions One-Eye and Goblin as Imperial colonels, Otto and Hagop as captains, and Murgen as a lieutenant. After two weeks in the Tower feeling threatened by the Tower Guard, the Company loses patience and rides out, leaving her there. Croaker promises her that he will wait for her at Opal. Lady eventually arrives and they leave her empire together. Outside the imperial borders south of Padora, Croaker officially makes her a soldier of the Company. He also starts having visions of a mysterious figure, surrounded by flocks of ravens, which nobody else notices.

On their way south, Croaker bring on several new recruits. In Gea-Xle he accepts the best of a group of elite soldiers, called the Nar, led by Mogaba. The Company boards a giant fortified river barge, leads a flotilla down the great river, and faces down fearsome river pirates. The Howler, who was thought to be dead, is behind the pirates' attack. As the Howler attacks them, Croaker plays a dangerous gambit with Lady, and his intuition proves correct. When Lady relents, Croaker orders Frogface to return a special staff to Shapeshifter, who had joined them under the fictitious guise of "Eldon the Seer". Shifter is now able to intervene with high-magnitude sorcery, and he slaughters many more pirates, chasing the Howler away with an inferno.

Croaker and his men reach further south to the city of Taglios. The Prahbrindrah Drah, its prince, recruits them to defeat the Shadowmasters, a group of powerful sorcerers who are controlling the territories on the way to Khatovar. Croaker organizes a scouting mission without notifying the prince. They are attacked and Croaker is separated from the rest. He follows the strange figure he has been seeing for months to a ghostly-looking forest and receives an arrow with a warning message.

He is eventually reunited with the rest of the Black Company. They return to Taglios and start training an army. They create three legions and appoint their best Nar recruits, Mogaba, Ochiba, and Sindawe as legion commanders. Afterward they face the Shadowmasters' armies in the Battle of Ghoja Ford. The battle is won and Croaker advances to Stormgard. There, the Black Company wins an impressive victory during the first day of the Battle of Dejagore, but the following day, they suffer a crushing defeat. Few of them retreat to the city. Croaker is shot with an arrow and loses consciousness.

Dreams of Steel[]

Croaker The Black Company by Brandy Woods

Croaker with the Lance of Passion, fan art by Brandy Woods

In Dreams of Steel, Croaker's wife Lady is now both the Black Company Captain and Annalist, and picks up the chronicles where her husband left off. She describes him as about 45 years of age with a noticeably receding hairline.

The mysterious figure with the ravens turns out to be Soulcatcher, and Croaker awakens to find himself her prisoner. He witnesses his headless captor incinerate Moonshadow, the Shadowmaster he defeated on the battlefield. She helps him heal from the arrow wound she inflicted and then has Croaker stitch her severed head back to its place. After recovering from her wounds, she (or possibly her minion Frogface) steals the Widowmaker armor from inside Dejagore, and she orders Croaker to wear it. Disguised as the Widowmaker and Lifetaker, they attack the Shadowmaster army that is conducting the Siege of Dejagore. They return to Taglios where Soulcatcher pretends to be Lady and Croaker is concealed with a glamour that makes him look like Lady's bodyguard Ram. Croaker is finally freed when Soulcatcher is abducted by the Howler.

He mobilizes some of Lady's soldiers and heads for Dejagore, where Lady has already killed Shadowspinner. Mogaba, who has been conspiring against the Black Company's Old Crew, surrenders Dejagore; Croaker permits him to desert, and he is followed by only 3 companions from the Nar. Croaker is eventually reunited with Lady, but their newborn daughter is kidnapped by Narayan Singh and his loyal Stranglers.

Books of Glittering Stone[]

Croaker, the Old Man, the Captain of the Black Company, the right-now-by-god military dictator of Taglios and all its tributaries, dependencies and protectorates, does not look the part. He is in his middle fifties, possibly closer to sixty. He stands more than six feet tall. He has grown slightly heavy during four years spent mainly in garrison. He has a high forehead with a feeble crop of hair farther back. Lately he has been affecting a beard on his chin. It is grizzled. So is what hair still lurks upon his head. His icy blue eyes are deeply set, giving him a hard, scary look, like some kind of psychopathic killer.

Murgen describes Croaker's physical appearance, She Is the Darkness, ch. 1

Bleak Seasons[]

Croaker by Pti-SPB

Croaker fan art by Pti-SPB (Olga Sluchanko)

Four years later, Croaker has been mainly in garrison at the Palace of Taglios, diligently planning a large-scale invasion of the Shadowlands. He has trained Murgen to be his successor as Annalist. He also becomes "implacable in his resolve to exterminate" the Stranglers, even more so than his own wife, for their kidnapping of his newborn daughter. Due to slightly outdated enemy intelligence, Croaker is not present when a band of Stranglers strikes his former room in the Palace in an effort to assassinate him. Although the Strangler attack sent a shockwave of fear throughout Taglios, the next morning Croaker speaks to the masses in his authority as Liberator to control the narrative and fuel new enthusiasm among the populace. In his chronicle, Murgen praises Croaker for the masterful move.

She Is the Darkness[]

Croaker the Liberator finishes his preparations and leads the final push against Longshadow, the last of the Shadowmasters. Using his wife's fireball projectors, his forces wipe out a terrifying avalanche of killer shadows at the Battle of Lake Tanji. Next, at the Battle of Charandaprash, he is victorious over Mogaba, the enemy's best general and the Company's worst traitor. Finally at the Siege of Overlook, his foe Longshadow is captured alive. Soulcatcher is also caught for a time, but manages to trap Croaker, Murgen, Lady, and several others in stasis beneath the glittering plain. Without its commanders, the Black Company is almost eliminated in the subsequent Kiaulune wars. Sleepy, the Annalist, learns from Murgen's ghost-walking spirit that they are alive beneath the plain, and Sleepy dedicates herself to freeing the Captured.

Water Sleeps[]

Like the rest of the Captured, Croaker was immobilized for at least 15 years in the cave of the ancients, up until the end of Water Sleeps. He and most of the other Captured were seemingly unconscious for this period. The exceptions were Lady and Murgen, who were able to communicate with the outside world with their disembodied spirits.

Despite being frozen in a death-like trance, Croaker remained the official Captain during the Captivity. The remainder of the Company was meanwhile commanded by its highest-ranking officer, Sleepy, in her capacity as Annalist. Through her determination and Murgen's guidance, the Company liberated the Captured after more than 15 years worth of covert efforts, using the golden pickax to access the plain safely. Croaker was among the first wave of 5 Captured individuals to be freed (alongside Lady, Murgen, Thai Dei, and the Prahbrindrah Drah). He was guided by his rescuers into the world of Hsien at the end of Water Sleeps.

Soldiers Live[]

The quality of mercy has left me a great, sour role in the theater of my own despair.

–Chapter 22

Sometime during the 4-year gap between Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live, Croaker refused to keep the role of Captain, doubting his sanity after so many years unconscious. But he does resume the role of Annalist, swapping roles with Sleepy, making her the new Captain. Despite the best healing sorcery of Tobo and even the Unknown Shadows, Croaker's recuperation after being rescued from his icy stasis takes longer than his recovery from Soulcatcher's arrow during the Battle of Dejagore had taken.

Croaker by Didier Graffet

Croaker, with Shivetya in the background, by Didier Graffet

At the start of Soldiers Live, Croaker estimates he is about 56 years old.

Croaker participates in Sleepy's efforts to defeat both Soulcatcher's Protectorate as well as the supernatural threat Kina. Before that campaign begins, however, he makes an unsanctioned trip with an eclectic group of sympathetic Company members and allies to the Voroshk world – home of the ruins of long-lost Khatovar – to avenge the murder of One-Eye. In that alien land he orchestrates the capture and execution of Lisa Daele Bowalk and tricks the Voroshk patriarchs into obliterating their own Shadowgate. This precipitates the entry of countless shadows into that world, which scour the land of most human and animal life.

During the campaign in the homeworld, Croaker becomes the adoptive father of Shukrat and Arkana, two Voroshk teenagers who become wards of the Black Company. Soulcatcher is defeated by a different enemy – the Khadidas – so Croaker and Lady have Catcher's dying body interned in the cave of the ancients before she can expire. He also seeks to recover his daughter, Kina's evil pawn, whom he and Lady refer to as "Booboo" as a half-joking attempt to give her a name other than the grim title Daughter of Night. He is eventually successful but at a price. After Croaker destroys Kina with the help of the re-animated wizard Goblin and One-Eye's spear, the enraged Daughter of Night attempts to strangle her mother Lady with a rumel (strangling scarf). To save his wife, Croaker mortally wounds his daughter, and Lady is left in critical condition.

With the help of Arkana and Soulcatcher (in the form of her white crow), Croaker deposits Booboo's body in the cave of the ancients in the hopes that she may possibly be brought out of the stasis to be healed in the future. But, beneath the unnamed fortress, Arkana leaves Croaker stranded to make an unsanctioned return to her home, the Voroshk world. So the old Annalist spends several weeks communing with Soulcatcher's crow and soon even the golem Shivetya directly. He and Shivetya work out a scheme so that Coaker can keep his promise to the golem to allow it to leave its post as the guardian of the glittering plain. Shukrat finally arrives. She and Croaker, with the aid of Soulcatcher's white crow and some Unknown Shadows, rescue Arkana from her imprisonment at Rhuknavr. This proved to be Croaker's final adventure in the Annals.

After tying up that last loose end, Croaker's plan to honor his agreement with Shivetya is revealed. The Annalist and the golem have agreed to switch bodies: Croaker's spirit enters the golem's immortal body, allowing him to endow Lady with her old powers. Meanwhile the golem can finally finish its own days in a mortal man's dying body. Croaker passes on his role as Annalist to both his adopted daughters, laying the pen down and accepting his new role as the undying and all-knowing guardian of the plain.