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Croaker by Towed Jumper

Croaker with his bow, fan art by Towed Jumper

A magnificent black bow was – for roughly 15 years – one of the most prized personal possessions of Croaker, the physician and Annalist of the Black Company. He would use this gift from the Lady in a handful of dangerous combat situations in the Books of the North, including fights against Soulcatcher, the Dominator, the Limper, and even Raven. Later, he brought it along during his long southward odyssey in Shadow Games; within a few years the weapon fell by the wayside and was eventually forgotten as Croaker fully embraced his new role as the chief strategist and warlord of Taglios.

The Black Company[]

The bow was created by the best bowyers of the Lady's Empire, as it was originally in the personal possession of the empress, the Lady herself. The black bow was "of identical weight and pull" to Croaker's more mundane Company bow. She had the weapon prepared for him in supernatural anticipation for threats against his life from some of her own Ten Who Were Taken.

In the midst of the Battle of Charm, the Lady gave the weapon to Croaker during a private meeting in her personal residence within the Tower. It, and several finely-crafted silver-headed black arrows that accompanied it, would be her first gifts to Croaker. Upon seeing the bow, Croaker thought to himself that it was "too gorgeous to be used as a weapon", but the Lady assured him he would need it. Later that same night, he was attacked by a flat cloud of darkness – a spell unique to Soulcatcher – but he defeated it with an arrow from his new bow.

The next morning – what would be the final day of the Battle of Charm – everyone eyed Croaker's magnificent bow. Darling's adoptive father Raven particularly felt threatened by it, on account of his incorrectly-placed distrust of the Annalist. During the Rebel's last charge at the Tower, Croaker carried the bow and at least 7 of its special arrows on the back of one of the tireless Imperial black stallions alongside the Lady as she gave chase to the traitorous Soulcatcher. With it, he shot down two of Soulcatcher's masked loyalists and then, Soulcatcher herself. Throughout this harrowing combat, he had doubts about his agency over his own actions and observed inexplicable visions. With the weapon, he was flown by the Lady back to the Tower aboard a flying carpet. He later brought it with him when he and Silent rode out to give supplies and horses to the deserter Raven and his ward Darling.

"Bone Eaters"[]

The bow accompanied Croaker throughout the short stories of the On The Long Run arc, which detailed the Black Company's flight across a large portion of the northern continent. It was mentioned specifically in one of them, "Bone Eaters", during which he carried it into the hostile Village of Hungry Ghosts:

...that dumb-ass Company Annalist Croaker beside [Darling] on her right. He carried a seldom-seen bow that had been a gift from the Lady on his release from the Tower. He was pretty good with that bow. [...] The arrow wobbled through the fuzzy bounds of the null. The spells on it took life. It struck behind the animal’s head, skipped off bone into brain.

While being protected from the hungry ghosts by Darling's null, he used the bow and one of its enchanted arrows to kill one of the two wild asses that was possessed. Hagop recovered the arrow from the carcass.

The White Rose[]

Croaker by Виталий Стрелец

Croaker with his bow, fan art by Виталий Стрелец

The weapon, stored unstrung, was in Croaker's possession in the Hole in the Plain of Fear by the opening of The White Rose, and he was carrying it when he received the first packet of the "Bomanz narrative" from a courier from the distant city of Oar. The weapon was eyed with suspicion by the stranger known as Tracker.

Croaker armed himself with the bow during the Lieutenant's daring invasion of the Limper's compound outside Rust. He and the supernaturally-excellent archer Tracker shot Imperials before a windwhale arrived to evacuate them. Later, he brought the bow on his undercover mission to the Barrowland where it was briefly examined by a curious Eternal Guardsman. When they were chased by Imperials, he allowed himself to be captured with it by Whisper to buy time for his companions to reach the Plain. It accompanied him when the Lady traveled with him to the Plain.

The Dominator fell. As he plunged toward both water and null [...] I loosed an arrow. Deadeye. One of the best wing shots I have ever made. It got him in the side.

At the Battle of the Barrowland, the Lady gave Croaker three new special arrows and specifically requested that he bring the bow to her upcoming choreographed, life-or-death encounter with the Dominator. There, he shot the Dominator in the side as he plummeted through the air, and next pierced the Limper in the heart with another arrow. Shortly afterward, he shot Raven in the hip and smacked Case upside the head with the bow.

Shadow Games[]

In Shadow Games Croaker departed the Tower at Charm with the remaining Black Company brothers, leaving the Lady behind. With a fortune in tow and a black iron coach drawn by priceless black stallions, he eyed the black bow and marveled as his stunning change of circumstances:

Lying opposite me in that coach was a black bow, the first gift she ever gave me, so many years ago, before the Company deserted her. It was precious in its own right. How the wheel turns.

Later, in his first visit to the haunted forest that would later be identified as the Grove of Doom, Croaker shot one of Longshadow's Shadowlanders:

I got back down, behind the horse, took out my bow, strung it, drew an arrow—the arrow just collected—and started angling across the hillside, staying behind my mount. The little brown guys turned their toy horses and moved with me. When I had a nice range I jumped out and let fly at the nearest. He saw it coming and tried to dodge, only he did himself more harm than good. I meant to put the shaft into his pony’s neck. It slammed in through his knee, getting him and the animal both. The pony threw him and took off, dragging him from a stirrup.

Dreams of Steel[]

The Annalist of Dreams of Steel, Lady, recorded that Croaker's black bow was smuggled out of Dejagore by Soulcatcher when she also stole the Widowmaker armor from Murgen's hiding place within that city. Given that information, it stands to reason that Croaker was armed with the bow during the Battle of Dejagore. After Croaker was pierced by Soulcatcher's own arrow, Murgen donned the Widowmaker armor and must have taken the black bow into the city after the battle was lost.

Croaker retrieved the bow from a hiding place within the city barracks of Taglios. After riding with the Prahbrindrah Drah, he took the bow to Vehdna-Bota, where he linked up with the company of archers that had recently executed the Massacre at Khadi Junction on Lady's orders. He rode out with the company, intending to disguise himself among them as a common Taglian archer to conceal his movements from Soulcatcher. However, this plan failed as Soulcatcher's imp Frogface spotted him and kept him separated from Lady for months by destroying the bridge over the Main at Ghoja.

She Is the Darkness[]

The bow reappeared again in the Annals when Murgen discovered it alongside One-Eye's beer bottles and enchanted spear in the reinforced cubby of an old Company dugout outside Overlook near Kiaulune. Until he found it there, Murgen has assumed the bow had simply been lost for several years. When Murgen asked Croaker about the weapon, Croaker only vaguely recalled having asked One-Eye to hide it for him, and confessed: "I haven’t seen it in so long I’d forgotten it".

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