The great river is a massive, lengthy river that flows southward throughout much of the civilized heart of the southern continent. Like the Main, another significant river, the great river empties into the western ocean. But, unlike the Main (which is powerful and surging), the great river is mostly sluggish. It flows past Gea-Xle and is famous for its Third (northernmost), Second, and First Cataracts. Taglios lay on the southeast bank of the great river, actually inland a little, straddling a tributary that snakes between a half-dozen low hills. The great river and its environs were major locations in Shadow Games.
- Between Gea-Xle and the Third Cataract: The great river flows from an unspecified source to the major city of Gea-Xle. From there, it flows 860 miles southward until it reaches the Third Cataract. Downriver from Gea-Xle to the Third Cataract is a journey of at least two weeks. Between the city and the Third Cataract, the great river flows "imperceptibly" through a needleteeth-infested swamp 300 miles long and, depending upon location, 10 to 80 miles wide. Then, travelers must traverse an 8-mile portage around the Third Cataract before they can re-enter the great river. The Black Company had to fight off the Howler's swamp pirates before reaching Thresh, the major city just above the Third Cataract.
- Between the Third and Second Cataract: Between the Third and Second Cataracts, the great river scampers "nervously between dark and brooding hills". On its east bank are the ruins of Cho'n Delor. And on the hilltops beyond the west bank are the ruins of the Triplet Cities (Odd the First, Odd the Second, and Odd the Third). Nearby is the walled city called Idon, which is one street wide and ten miles long. The Second Cataract is about 300 miles north of the First Cataract.
- Between the Second and First Cataract: The First Cataract is about 300 miles south of the Second Cataract, and 480 miles north of Taglios. Above the First Cataract is Dadiz, and below it is the city of Catorce. Boats can make the downriver journey from Dadiz, over the First Cataract, to Catorce and beyond. The First Cataract is "an obstacle to navigation only to traffic coming up the river". Its current is "too swift for sail or oars and the banks too far and boggy for a towpath". Traveling upriver from Taglios to Catorce is mostly an easy journey of 2 weeks with an "almost nonexistent" current to push against. Then, to get around the First Cataract, travelers must make an 18-mile journey overland from Catorce to Dadiz.
- Between the First Cataract, Taglios, the delta, and the sea: 480 miles downriver of the First Cataract is Taglios. The great river then meanders southwest of Taglios and drains into a gigantic swampy delta, which is the home of the Nyueng Bao. On one of Croaker's maps, the delta "looked like a many-fingered, spidery hand clawing at the belly of the sea". From there, it then empties into the ocean. In Shadow Games, Croaker reports that the distance along the great river between Taglios and the ocean is 200 miles. Later, Murgen in She Is the Darkness writes that the delta itself "was one huge swamp two hundred miles across". If both accounts are accurate, the swamp begins close to Taglios. (Traveling due west, overland, from Taglios to the nearest ocean coast is merely 40 miles.)
Before Shadow GamesEdit
Sometime between the Battle of Charm and Shadow Games, Willow Swan, Cordy Mather, and Blade made the journey down the great river and settled in Taglios. Very shortly after their passage, a huge section of the great river (starting somewhere downriver of Gea-Xle and somewhere upriver of the Third Cataract) was blockaded by the Howler, a fugitive sorcerer from the Lady's Empire. The Howler (a member of the Ten Who Were Taken who faked his death in the northern continent) secretly created a kingdom for himself in the swamps by hashing together bands of dangerous pirates. The river-port cities of Gea-Xle and Thresh suffered major economic losses during the Howler's bandit reign over this region. The pirates killed everyone who attempted to overthrow them until the arrival of the Black Company.
Croaker, the Captain of the Black Company, accepted a commission from the merchants of Gea-Xle to break the swamp pirates in their needleteeth-infested swamps upriver of the Third Cataract. No one there yet knew that the Howler was the leader of the pirates. The Company accepted more than 30 Nar warriors into its ranks, fortified a giant barge, and entered the great river at the head of an armed flotilla. With Croaker's leadership, they defeated the pirates with conventional weapons. Then, when the Howler entered the battle personally with his formidable sorcery, he was chased away by Lady's disguised companion, Shapeshifter.
The Company then continued down the great river and traveled across all three of its Cataracts in their southward journey toward the fabled Khatovar. When they reached Thresh, they were joined by the Radisha Drah, Smoke, Willow Swan, Blade, and Cordy Mather, who had traveled upriver from Taglios all the way to Thresh. The Company and their 5 new companions finally debarked in a satellite of Taglios, a river-port town called Maheranga.
One of the last events of the Siege of Taglios took place on the great river. Four Protectorate officials – Mogaba, Ghopal Singh, and two leaders of the Greys (both were unmarried second-cousins of Ghopal Singh) – were murdered by some Unknown Shadows at Tobo's behest as they attempted to flee upriver.