|“||Harden possessed a vile, volatile, unpredictable temper... I stared. I had not expected Harden to be so intimidating. He was every bit as ugly as the apparition that had appeared during Goblin's bout with One-Eye... Harden was as big a villain as any of the Taken.||”|
Harden was a male sorcerer and one of the most powerful members of the Circle of Eighteen. As a member of the Circle, he was the leader of a significant Rebel force warring against and the Imperial armies of the Lady and her generals, the Ten Who Were Taken. One of Harden's cousins was Whisper, the most dangerous and respected member of the Circle. Harden's wife was the sister of Raker, another influential member of the Circle. Harden and Raker despised each other immensely, as Harden would frequently travel throughout the province of Forsberg and antagonize his brother-in-law.
The Black Company[edit | edit source]
Harden's likeness used as disguise[edit | edit source]
Harden is first mentioned in Croaker's annals in the context of an ambush in Oar. Shapeshifter, one of the Ten Who Were Taken, conducted a raid of a concealed Rebel location where the imperial Colonel Zouad was being imprisoned and tortured. To gain access to Zouad, Shifter transformed himself into the appearance of Cornie, a local Rebel sympathizer. He then cast his glamour over three men of the Black Company to accompany him in disguise as well: Raven appeared to be Harden; Elmo appeared to be Field Major Reef, Harden's chief-of-staff; and Croaker appeared to be Motrin Hanin, Harden's nephew and a vicious assassin. The Rebels torturing Zouad were part of an independent-minded faction, but they clearly feared Harden so the disguised group was immediately welcomed into the underground chamber. The operation proved to be a success, as many Rebels were soon killed by Shifter and the Company in Oar.
Campaigning against the Black Company[edit | edit source]
Besieging Lords[edit | edit source]
When Whisper was notified by her mole the Limper that the Black Company had captured her base camp in the Forest of Cloud, she realized that her heavily detailed order of battle was now in the hands of the Empire. Although normally a lone wolf, this time she notified the rest of the Circle. The Circle ceased its usual bickering, and Harden led the biggest Rebel army that had been raised so far in the war toward the major city of Lords. Although the Taken Nightcrawler and Soulcatcher helped the Black Company defend the city, Harden beleaguered Lords using both advanced siege tactics, and, with the help of other members of the Circle, overwhelming battlefield sorcery in the form of black clouds hurling lightning. After more than 12 days of vicious fighting, Harden's Rebels swamped the city.
Through the Windy Country[edit | edit source]
The Black Company and the accompanying Imperials fled Lords into the Windy Country to attempt to reach the defensible position in the Stair of Tear. Harden's Rebels pursued them closely, skirmishing often. He pushed through a horrendous and ceaseless storm system thrown at them by Stormbringer, which included tornadoes and sandstorms. His forces also suffered the untraceable terrors of Shapeshifter, who passed freely through his lines to spread chaos.
The Stair of Tear[edit | edit source]
Harden's attempt to stop the Black company and the accompanying Imperials from reaching the excellent defensive position of the Stair of Tear was unsuccessful. Worse for Harden, his enemies were bolstered by reinforcements including the Hanged Man, about 500 of the Lady's own Tower Guard, 500 teamsters, livestock, and a wagon train of supplies. However Harden was soon joined by Moth, Sidle, and Linger, fellow members of the Circle, and they initiated an attack involving magical banners of light. However, the Hanged Man foiled this attack. Soulcatcher revealed that the Hanged Man had arrived at the Stair specifically in anticipation of this sort of threat.
Next, Harden sent a feint, a relatively small force of men, directly into the canyon; this group was wiped out by one of the Taken using lava and steam. After this, Harden personally struck at Soulcatcher in midair when she was riding her flying carpet, using his violet-colored sorcery. A significant force successfully flanked the Imperials during the feint; during this fighting, Shapeshifter ambushed Linger and Moth, killing them, and grievously wounded Sidle.
Harden and his teamsters were soon ambushed by the Hanged Man, Soulcatcher, and Stormbringer, as well as Croaker and Raven from the Black Company, and at least 4 veteran Imperial soldiers. This group descended upon him using flying carpets. The Hanged Man used a powerful spell on Rebels, causing them to grasp at their throats in debilitating agony. Only Harden was able to shake off the Hanged Man's spell; the rest were defenseless and were cut down by Soulcatcher, Croaker, and Raven. Harden mounted his huge black horse and struck back: he cut down one Imperial, used his violet-colored sorcery to literally freeze the three Taken in their tracks, and killed a second soldier. However, before he could finish the three defenseless Taken, Harden was attacked by his own horse, which was actually Shapeshifter in disguise the whole time. Shifter trapped one of Harden's arms in his "mane". In desperation, Harden flung his sword toward the three frozen Taken, which punctured the Hanged Man fatally through his head. A dagger strike from Raven was ineffective, so Harden punched him unconscious. Croaker hacked the Rebel's free hand to the bone with his sword. As Shifter transformed from a horse into some unspeakable monster, he held Harden defenseless while Stormbringer's two Imperial soldiers chopped him to death. Although Harden was assassinated, he accomplished what no one had ever done up to that point: he dealt a mortal blow to one of the Ten Who Were Taken.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
After Harden's assassination, his leaderless army was led into a trap in the canyons at the Stair by the Captain and suffered immense slaughter. But they still outnumbered the Company, and were soon joined by other Rebel armies coming from successful campaigns in the northwest. The Company withdrew to the Tower at Charm and the remaining Rebels would soon initiate the Battle of Charm.