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The Great River by Didier Graffet

The great river by Didier Graffet

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 ultimately 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. It feeds the colossal swampy delta which the Nyueng Bao De Duang call home before reaching the ocean. The great river and its environs were major locations in Shadow Games.


The geography of the great river – starting upriver at Gea-Xle (its earliest point in the Annals) and following its slow current southward – is as follows:

Between Gea-Xle and the Third Cataract[]

The great river flows from an unspecified source or sources to the major city of Gea-Xle (home of Mogaba and the Nar). 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. Thresh is the major city just above the Third Cataract.

Between Gea-Xle and Thresh, 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.

Between the Third and Second Cataract[]

Between the Third and Second Cataracts, the great river scampers "nervously between dark and brooding hills". Above the Second Cataract itself are two historical ruins and one city of interest. On its east bank are the ruins of Cho'n Delor, a seemingly haunted place which sees no traffic and which is shunned by animals. On a narrow strip on the west bank is the walled city called Idon, which is one street wide and ten miles long. On the hilltops beyond Idon ere the ruins of the Triplet Cities (Odd the First, Odd the Second, and Odd the Third).

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.

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 Croaker's Annals[]

Main article: Pastel Wars

The Black Company traveled northward along the great river, generations before even One-Eye and Tom-Tom joined. When they reached Cho'n Delor, they entered into the service of a mysterious sorcerer called the Paingod. They participated in the bloody Pastel Wars against the Triplet Cities. The survivors of the band fled north after great devastation befell Cho'n Delor and the Paingod was defeated.

Before Shadow Games[]

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.

Shadow Games[]

Croaker, the Black Company Captain, 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 all three of its Cataracts in their southward journey toward the fabled Khatovar. When they reached Thresh, the major city just above the Third Cataract, 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 to meet them.

At the Second Cataract, Croaker spent some time alone exploring some haunted ruins from the Company's distant past:

I swiped a boat and crossed the river and climbed the hills to the ruins of Cho'n Delor. I spent a day roaming that haunted memorial to a dead god, alone except for crows, always wondering about the sort of men who had gone before me. [...] I did not get to explore as thoroughly as I wanted. I was tempted to hang around but the old animal down inside told me I did not want to be stranded in those ruins after dark. It told me wicked things stalked Cho’n Delor’s night. I listened.

The Company and their 5 new companions finally debarked in a satellite of Taglios, a river-port town called Maheranga.

Water Sleeps[]

The warehouse of the Nyueng Bao merchant named Banh Do Trang, located on the great river waterfront in Taglios proper, was the secret headquarters of the Black Company in Water Sleeps.

Soldiers Live[]

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.