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Dreams of Steel by Glen Cook is the "Fifth Chronicle" of the Black Company series and "Second Book of the South". Written from the perspective of Lady, it chronicles her actions after the Company's dismal defeat at the Battle of Dejagore. A key focus is her new partnership with the Deceivers, a cult of clandestine murderers who seem to worship her. It also chronicles her husband's concurrent captivity at the hands of her insane sister, Soulcatcher.

Plot summary[]

Introduction[]

Lady provides a brief prologue. She is brand new to the role of Annalist and is cognizant about her potential shortcomings as a historian. Noticeably, has replaced her husband Croaker, the Annalist who preceded her for the past four chronicles, and she identifies herself as Captain.

The narrative begins with four men observing the bloody Battle of Dejagore from an extreme distance. Three of them are companions: Willow Swan, Cordy Mather, and the taciturn Blade, who are dismayed at the obvious defeat of the Black Company and the thousands of Taglians they commanded. The trio are accompanied by Smoke, the disagreeable court wizard and high advisor to the Prahbrindrah Drah and the Radisha Drah – the Taglain royal siblings. Smoke’s opinion of the Black Company’s fall is decidedly different.

Lady’s survival outside Dejagore[]

Lady barely pulls herself out from a pile of corpses in the immediate aftermath of the Black Company's devastating defeat outside the walls of Dejagore. When she retrieves the priceless Carqui sword, she is overlooked by enemy soldiers by pure chance. She is in despair at the loss of her love, Croaker, whom she had seen pierced by an arrow in the thick of the battle. The survivors of the Company and their Taglian soldiers have fled behind the walls of Dejagore but she is trapped outside, vulnerable to the mobs of Shadowlanders serving their master, Shadowspinner. She awakens from an exhausted sleep near the battlefield and defends herself from a Shadowlander with a Golden Hammer... newfound sorcery that should be impossible for her to summon. Two strange men, Narayan Singh and Ram, have been watching; they kill a second nearby Shadowlander and begin loyally following her around.

Croaker and his captor, Soulcatcher[]

Meanwhile, the decapitated Soulcatcher is traveling unseen across the landscape from the battle site with two prisoners. One is the once-feared Shadowmaster known as Moonshadow, who is helpless and still impaled upon Murgen's Lance of Passion. The other is Croaker. Catcher disposes of the first prisoner after determining only that he had not been a member of the Ten Who Were Taken. But she has no intention of harming Croaker; in fact she begins carefully nursing him back to health behind the walls of the seasonally-vacant temple of the Deceivers in the Grove of Doom. With the help of Catcher's loyal imp Frogface, Croaker restores the insane woman's head to her neck... the same head he had personally lopped off roughly 18 years prior.

Soulcatcher forges a frightening copy of the Lifetaker armor. He is reunited with the Lance of Passion and his Widowmaker armor, and they leave for Dejagore. With Soulcatcher restored, she uses her immense sorcery to clobber Shadowspinner's besieging army the very night he is about to finally capture the city and exterminate the Black Company. When the Shadowmaster pulls his men out from the city to counter the bizarre threat, Soulcatcher leaves. Shadowspinner's forces are now too badly depleted to actually capture the city, but they remain strong enough to maintain the Siege of Dejagore.

Although Soulcatcher has healed Croaker and saved the Black Company, it is clear her purpose for keeping Croaker alive is to use him as a tool in a plot to ultimately bring her hated sister Lady to despair. She even attempts to seduce him, but he resists.

Lady consolidates power[]

Lady learns that Narayan is one of the most influential jamadars of the Deceivers, a forbidden cult that was thought to exist only in rumor. She uses these new Strangler allies to string together Taglian forces and strike some victories against the Shadowlanders. Additionally, she faces down truculent internal resistance from influential Taglian cult leaders. She assassinates Jahamaraj Jah and defeats Chal Ghanda Ghan's attempt on her life at the Taglian olive grove and mineral baths, having him killed as well. When Iman ul Habn Adr and the other chief priests try to thwart her efforts to construct a military encampment, she orchestrates the Massacre at Khadi Junction, where upwards of one thousand priests from all three major religions (Gunni, Shadar, and Vehdna) are executed. The Radisha Drah is especially horrified.

In this way, Lady earns the virtually unchallenged control of the military that, months earlier, had been freely given to Croaker when he was hired as Liberator.

At the Grove of Doom with the Stranglers, she is suffering increasingly nauseating symptoms and followed closely by mysterious crows. She observes scattered stick figures – some painstakingly crafted – and realizes they were made by Croaker. Her love has somehow survived the Battle of Dejagore. She is barely able to conceal her excitement from her corvid stalkers. She also discerns his message that the Howler is somehow involved in recent events... and most shockingly, that her own sister Soulcatcher is alive after all of these years.

Inside the temple, the idol of Kina unexpectedly springs to life for a few terrifying moments during the cult’s murderous rituals. And, the Deceivers subject Lady to a test. Without warning, a chief Strangler jamadar called Moma Sharrael attempts to strangle her. At the very last moment, she foils her attacker and kills him in turn, stunning everyone. She also confiscates the dead man’s black-colored rumel… commanding immense respect. She takes the opportunity to mark the Deceiver leadership with an indelible stain on their hands, and soon turns her attention again to Dejagore.

Soulcatcher's sojourn in Taglios[]

Soulcatcher begins masquerading in Taglios as her sister, with Croaker unable to speak and trapped in the guise of Lady's bodyguard Ram. She has mastered Deceiver's Cant and even tricks Lady's Strangler attendants that she is her sister. She orders the Stranglers to kill One Who Leads Eight Who Serve and his seven followers – Longshadow's shadowweaver agents in Taglios. Next, she sends a hideous fanged demon to kill the wizard and royal advisor Smoke in the Palace of Taglios. But when this attack is interrupted by the Prahbrindrah Drah and the Radisha Drah, the demon flees, leaving Smoke clinging to life.

While Soulcatcher and Croaker are riding in a coach with the Prahbrindrah, they are suddenly ambushed by the Howler and three of Longshadow's best soldiers selected at Overlook. The soldiers are killed, and the Howler receives excruciating wounds from Croaker who wields the supernatural Lance of Passion. But he escapes on his flying carpet with the unconscious Soulcatcher, believing he has kidnapped Lady.

Croaker is now finally free from Lady's insane sister, and his true appearance is restored. He takes great pains in his attempt to finally reunite with Lady, who is south of the Main, without alerting the many forces arrayed against him... most significantly, Soulcatcher's spying crows and Longshadow's shadows. He retrieves his priceless black bow from a hiding place within the city barracks, and after riding with the Prahbrindrah in disguise, he takes the bow to Vehdna-Bota, where he links up with the company of archers that had recently executed the Massacre at Khadi Junction on Lady's orders. He rides out with the company, intending to disguise himself among them as a common Taglian archer to further conceal his movements from Soulcatcher.

Lady and the Siege of Dejagore[]

Lady and her allies Narayan Singh, Ram, Blade, Willow Swan, and two other Stranglers infiltrate Shadowspinner's camp at the Siege of Dejagore. Spinner lets them sneak into his tent so he can gloat and mock them to their faces. But despite his very significant sorcery magnitude, he is unaware that the "unarmed" men are some of the most lethal Stranglers. They use rumels to prevent him from voicing spells, and after a fierce struggle, together they bring him down and decapitate him.

During their escape from the camp, the alarm is raised and they find themselves surrounded by overwhelming numbers of rank-and-file Shadowlanders and their officers. At Ram's behest, Lady begins acting like Kina, attempting to frighten the superstitious, confused enemy while holding Shadowspinner’s head aloft. Willow Swan and the others join in the bluff. It works: she quickly gains control of the haggard but sizable enemy camp, with only the loyalist Shadowlander officers fleeing.

In a twist, Lady commands the mob to continue the siege... but now to treat escapees from Dejagore like heroes. She is using the Shadowlander forces as a tool in a political maneuver against Mogaba, who remains trapped in the diseased and flooded city, and who continues to contest her claim to the Captaincy of the Black Company. She even has Murgen, who escaped the stricken city, sent back into the hellhole that is Dejagore to rejoin the Old Crew after tampering with his memory.

Soulcatcher at Overlook and beyond[]

South of the Dandha Presh, the Howler barely returns to Overlook with his captive, and almost succumbs to the Lance wounds. Though Longshadow had no intention of keeping the Howler alive, he now fears the Lance and the threat of access it poses to the apocalyptically-dangerous glittering plain. He spends almost an entire week without sleep defeating the agonizing sorcery in the Howler's veins.

Later, below them in the keystone cell, the drugged Soulcatcher is restored to consciousness by Frogface. Since her goal has always been to cause her sister pain, she immediately sends the imp away on a mission to ensure that Lady cannot be reunited with Croaker. (Frogface later spots Croaker riding with Taglian archers, and keeps him separated from Lady for months by destroying the bridge over the Main at Ghoja.) Soulcatcher melts a hole through the stone of her cell and summons a brutish demon to pulverize the garrison while she escapes from Overlook on foot.

Longshadow and the Howler realize that they had kidnapped the wrong Senjak sister. The Shadowmaster vows revenge. But instead of swamping her with soldiers, he takes the melodramatic course of sending a single gigantic shadow after her. Frogface helps her defeat the frightening entity in New Dhar before she liberates the imp from his bondage to her.

Siege lifted[]

Croaker, seemingly back from the dead, arrives at Dejagore and reunites Murgen the standard-bearer with the Lance of Passion. He decides to walk into the lion’s den by confronting Mogaba in person. The surviving inhabitants stare in stunned silence as Croaker fearlessly speaks with the murderous tyrant and even places his hand on Mogaba’s shoulder in a gesture of camaraderie. After a few tense moments, Mogaba relents... and even submits that he is worthy of execution for his behavior. But Croaker fatefully declines and allows the man to desert with three loyalists. The rest of the Nar remain by Croaker’s side.

The newborn[]

After months of misinterpreting the signs and symptoms, Lady learns from the Radisha's personal physician Doctor Dahrhanahdahr that her nauseating symptoms are the result of pregnancy. In her new fortress south of Taglios, she completes her Annals and awaits Croaker's return until she finally gives birth. But before she can even name her newborn girl, the infant is kidnapped by Narayan Singh. During the abduction, her loyal follower, Ram – himself a Strangler – betrays his comrades to defend Lady's child, and kills four of them before being slain himself. Lady, still separated from Croaker by the surging and uncrossable Main river, and now without her newborn, swears vile vengeance upon Singh and the entire Deceiver cult.

From the back cover[]

Croaker has fallen and, following the Black Company's disastrous defeat at Dejagore, Lady is one of the few survivors—determined to avenge the Company and herself against the Shadowmasters, no matter what the cost.

But in assembling a new fighting force from the dregs and rabble of Taglios, she finds herself offered help by a mysterious, ancient cult of murder—competent, reliable, and apparently committed to her goals.

Meanwhile, far away, Shadowmasters conspire against one another and the world, weaving dark spells that reach into the heart of Taglios. And in a hidden grove, a familiar figure slowly awakens to find himself the captive of an animated, headless corpse.

Mercilessly cutting through Taglian intrigues, Lady appears to be growing stronger every day. All that disturbs her are the dreams which afflict her by night—dreams of carnage, of destruction, of universal death, unceasing...[Dreams of Steel]

Global publication and translation history[]

In addition to the editions listed in the infobox at the top of this article, Dreams of Steel also appeared in the following formats and translations.

Gallery of omnibuses[]

All of the omnibuses in which Dreams of Steel is known to have appeared are shown in this gallery. See Books of the South for more details.

Single volumes and novel pairs[]

Dreams of Steel was also published in the following single-volume editions, novel pairs, translations, and formats. They are listed in order of publication, earliest first; some reappearances of the same translation may be grouped together.

Polish[]

Polish Dreams of Steel front
  • Title: Sny o stali
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: Polish
  • Translator: Jan Karłowski
  • Publisher: Rebis
  • Pub date: 1996; republished 1998
  • Cover art by: Alan Craddock
  • ISBN: 9788371203572 / 8371203578 (1996? paperback);
    9788371206771 / 8371206771 (1998? paperback)


Russian (1997 AST Dragon Age Chronicles)[]

This edition was part of the publisher's Dragon Age Chronicles (Век Дракона Хроники / Vek Drakona Khroniki) series.

Russian series Век Дракона Dreams of Steel 1997 front
  • Title: Стальные сны
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Глен Кук (Glen Cook)
  • Language: Russian
  • Translator: Е. Лихачёвой (E. Likhacheva) & Е. Прияткиной (E. Pleitkina)
  • Publisher: АСТ (AST) and Terra Fantastica
  • Pub date: 1997
  • Cover art by: Luis Royo
  • ISBN: Hardcovers: 5-15-000379-4 (ACT); 5-7921-0143-4 (TF)


Russian novel pair (2000 AST Golden Fantasy)[]

This single hardcover containing both Dreams of Steel & The Silver Spike was part of the publisher's Golden Fantasy series (Золотая серия фэнтези / Zolotaya seriya fentezi).

Russian series Zolotaya fentezi DS TSS pair 2000 front
  • Title: Стальные сны. Серебряный Клин (Dreams of Steel & The Silver Spike)
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Глен Кук (Glen Cook)
  • Language: Russian
  • Translator: Е. Лихачёвой (E. Likhacheva) & Е. Прияткиной (E. Pleitkina) Dreams of Steel only
  • Publisher: АСТ (AST) and Terra Fantastica
  • Pub date: 2000
  • Cover art by: Gary Ruddell (upper); Luis Royo (lower); unknown (left)
  • ISBN: Hardcovers: 9785170003952 [5-17-000395-1] (ACT); 9785792103139 [5-7921-0313-5] (TF)


French (2001 L'Atalante)[]

Dreams of Steel (L'Atalante 2001) Cover

See also the back cover art

  • Title: Rêves d'acier
  • Page shown: Front & back covers
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: French
  • Translator: Alain Robert
  • Publisher: L'Atalante
  • Pub date: September 2001
  • Cover art by: Didier Graffet
  • ISBN: 9782841721849 (paperback [broché])


Lithuanian[]

Lithuanian Dreams of Steel front
  • Title: Plieniniai sapnai
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: Lithuanian
  • Translator: Anita Kapočiūtė
  • Publisher: Eridanas
  • Pub date: 2003
  • Cover art by: Frank Frazetta
  • ISBN: 9789955100645 (paperback) [ISBN-10: 9955100648]


Spanish[]

Spanish Dreams of Steel (La Factoria) front
  • Title: Sueños de acero. Un libro de La Compañía Negra
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: Spanish
  • Translator: Pablo Rueda
  • Publisher: La Factoría de Ideas
  • Pub date: March 2005 (paperback); December 2014 (e-book)
  • Cover art by: Jan Patrik Krasny
  • ISBN: 9788498001563 (paperback); 9788490185841 (e-book)


Bulgarian[]

Bulgarian 6 Dreams of Steel front
  • Title: Стоманени сънища: Втора книга на юга (Хрониките на Черния отряд VI)
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Глен Кук (Glen Cook)
  • Language: Bulgarian
  • Translator: Светлана Комогорова (Svetlana Komogorova)
  • Publisher: Лира Принт (Lira Print)
  • Pub date: 2006
  • Cover art by: Alan Rabinowitz
  • ISBN: 9789548610599 (paperback) [sometimes incorrectly given as: 9789548610593]


French (2006 J'ai lu)[]

The same French translation previously published by L'Atalante (seen above) was republished by J'ai lu in smaller paperback format [poche]. The first reprints featured cover art by Johan Camou (left), which was replaced years later by the more abstract art of Slava Gerj (right) when the publisher did a cover refresh.
Dreams of Steel (J'ai lu 2006) Cover Slava Gerj Jai lu Dreams of Steel front

  • Title: Les Annales de la Compagnie Noire 5: Rêves d'acier
  • Page shown: Front covers
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: French
  • Translator: Alain Robert
  • Publisher: J'ai lu
  • Pub date: 10 October 2006
  • Cover art by: Johan Camou (left); Slava Gerj (right)
  • ISBN: 9782290348789 (small paperback [poche])


Russian novel pair (2008 AST Dragon Age 2)[]

This single hardcover containing 2 novels was part of the publisher's Dragon Age 2 series (Век дракона 2 / Vek Drakona 2).

Russian series Vek drakona 2 DS TSS pair 2008 front
  • Title: Стальные сны. Серебряный Клин (Dreams of Steel & The Silver Spike)
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Глен Кук (Glen Cook)
  • Language: Russian
  • Translator: Е. Лихачёвой (E. Likhacheva) & Е. Прияткиной (E. Pleitkina) Dreams of Steel only
  • Publisher: АСТ (AST); АСТ Москва (AST Moscow); Харвест (Harvest)
  • Pub date: 2008
  • Cover art by: Luis Royo
  • ISBN: Hardcovers: 978-5-17-049548-1 (ACT); 978-5-9713-7664-4 (АСТ Москва); 978-985-16-5171-5 (Harvest)


Persian[]

The art in the center of this publication's cover was adapted from Konami's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 platform game.

Persian Dreams of Steel cover
  • Title: مجموعه گروهان سياه کتاب پنجم روياهاي پولادين
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: Persian
  • Translator: آيدا کشوري (Aida Keshvari)
  • Publisher: کتابسرای تندیس، (Tandis Publishing)
  • Pub date: 2017
  • Cover art by: [Konami: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2]
  • ISBN: 9786001822674 (paperback)


German[]

German Dreams of Steel Mantikore front
  • Title: The Black Company 5 - Totengötter
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: German
  • Translator: Jan Enseling
  • Publisher: Mantikore-Verlag
  • Pub date: 21 March 2022 (paperback); 16 August 2022 (e-book)
  • Cover art by: Rossitza Atanassova & Matthias Lück (cover design)
  • ISBN: 9783961881307 (paperback); 9783961881680 (e-book)


(This German edition was also marketed under the ISBN "9783961881505" but that was apparently an error.)

Chinese[]

Chinese Dreams of Steel front
  • Title: 黑色佣兵团 5 钢铁残梦
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: 格伦·库克 (Glen Cook)
  • Language: Simplified Chinese
  • Translator: 赵梓铭 (Zhao Ziming)
  • Publisher: 国际文化出版公司 (International Culture Publishing Company)
  • Pub date: May 2023
  • Cover art by: (unknown)
  • ISBN: 9787512514478 (paperback)


Hungarian[]

Hungarian Tuan Dreams of Steel
  • Title: Az Acél Álmai
  • Page shown: Front cover
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: Hungarian
  • Translator: (info forthcoming)
  • Publisher: Tuan
  • Pub date: 07 March 2024
  • Cover art by: (info forthcoming)
  • ISBN: 9789635891153 (paperback)



Audiobooks[]

English audiobook[]

Audible Dreams of Steel
  • Title: Dreams of Steel
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: English
  • Narrated by: Rachel Butera
  • Length: 9 hours 37 minutes
  • Format: Audible digital audiobook
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Pub date: 31 August 2010
  • Cover art by: Keith Berdak
  • ISBN: (ASIN: B0041JIHWY)


Russian audiobook[]

Russian audio Soyuz Dreams of Steel
  • Title: Стальные сны
  • Author: Glen Cook
  • Language: Russian
  • Narrated by: Всеволод Кузнецов (Vsevolod Kuznetsov)
  • Length: 9 hours 37 minutes
  • Format: MP3 download
  • Publisher: СОЮЗ, Покидышевъ и сыновья (Soyuz, Pokidyshev and Sons)
  • Pub date: May 2022
  • Cover art by: (unknown)
  • ISBN: 4066338909541
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