... a cry like that of a wolf challenging the moon... At the rear of the carpet, unmoving, shunned, sat a child-sized figure concealed in layers of indigo gauze. It howled at random intervals.

–Croaker, The Black Company

The Howler was one of the original Ten Who Were Taken, and a recurring antagonist throughout the Black Company series. The formidable wizard was a tiny, masked man covered in a bundle of dirty indigo rags, notorious for random outbursts of chilling, uncontrollable screams. Despite his wisdom, vitality, and power, the Howler had little ambition, no concept of loyalty, and above all else, was driven by self-preservation. He would ally with whomever held the greatest power and influence at the time. He was also motivated by his wish to be cured of his namesake affliction.

The Howler primarily specialized in creating magical artifacts, with the flying carpet being his magnum opus, and was unrivaled in piloting them. When not piloting his carpet, he could often be found floating in the air.

Before the Annals[edit | edit source]

The Howler was the oldest of the Ten Who Were Taken, and was an established wizard-king "ages" even before the Lady was born. His iconic bloodcurdling howls, resulting in his moniker, were the result of a powerful curse afflicted upon him. In Soldiers Live, Lady reveals the Howler looked very different in the distant past, and he was not always so diminutive, suggesting that the curse changed him physically over the centuries. His knowledge of magic arguably rivaled that of the Lady.

The Domination[edit | edit source]

Prior to the era known as the Domination, the Howler was an independent wizard with considerable power in the northern continent. Then, he was enslaved by the infamous sorcerer known only as the Dominator, who somehow discovered the Howler's true name. The Howler was now one of the Ten Who Were Taken, the Dominator's chief enforcers and generals, but presumably was also one of his subordinate lords with control over much territory.

After about a century of the Dominator's tyrannical rule, they were all defeated (but not killed) by the original White Rose and her armies in the Great Forest. The Howler, alongside the Dominator, the Dominator's wife the Lady, the other nine Taken, were all imprisoned in the Barrowland alongside a considerable number of horrendous demons. The imprisonment was meant to last for eternity.

Liberation and service to the Lady[edit | edit source]

Several decades before The Black Company (and 370 years after being interred in the Barrowland), the Howler, the other nine Taken, and the Lady were freed from their prison by a group known as the Resurrectionists. To keep power to herself, the Lady orchestrated this event such that the Dominator and his "pet" demons remained imprisoned. The Howler and the other Taken would soon join the Lady in building their headquarters, the Tower at Charm. After that, the Taken served as the Lady's generals in the consolidation wars, helping her establish her own dominion, the Lady's Empire, over a huge span of the north.

The Black Company[edit | edit source]

The Howler loyally participated in the Imperial war against the Rebel of the Circle of Eighteen. He was first seen by Croaker in person after the Black Company kidnapped two new Circle members, Feather and Journey, during their honeymoon.[1] The Howler successfully extracted the strike team and their two prisoners via flying carpet. Croaker observed that the Howler was child-sized and fully wrapped in indigo cloth.

During the battle of Battle of Charm, the old wizard personally executed the Lady's plan to massacre the Rebel army. He did this by dropping magical orbs which spread a deadly plague among the combatants, effectively condemning almost 250,000 rebels to death along with several thousand allied Imperial soldiers. Immediately after dropping the orbs, he was believed to have been killed when Soulcatcher sabotaged his carpet, causing him to crash into the top of the Tower at Charm at very high speed. Catcher's attack on the Howler is what precipitated the Lady and Croaker to pursue her, ending with Catcher's decapitation.

It'd be like the time the Howler flew into the side of the Tower at Charm. Man, he must've been going at least three times as fast as a horse could run when he hit that wall. Blauw! Hair, teeth and eyeballs all over the—

Goblin's interrupted recollection of the Howler's impact into the Tower, many years later in Water Sleeps

Subsequent events[edit | edit source]

Rise of the Shadowmasters[edit | edit source]

Unknown virtually everyone in the north – even the Lady herself – the Howler survived the crash into the Tower. He used the opportunity to secretly flee into the southern continent. Stormbringer was another Taken who did the same. It was later revealed by Uncle Doj that the Howler and Stormbringer were among the six new homeworld apprentices of Longshadow and Shadowspinner, a pair of wizards who originated from an entirely different world. The eight of them stole a fake "key" from the Nyueng Bao De Duang (believing it to be like the golden pickax), and attempted to use it in order to control the homeworld shadowgate. Since the key was not real, they failed, and were assaulted by a hellish influx of shadows. Three of the eight (not identified in the Annals) were killed in the incident, and Howler himself was gravely injured and forced to flee.

Pirate king[edit | edit source]

The Howler's next move after licking his wounds was to establish his own pirate kingdom over the natives between Gea-Xle and Thresh, residing in the swamps of the great river. His pirates choked regional commerce, impacting the livelihoods of the merchants of Gea-Xle and causing Thresh to fall into serious decline.

Shadow Games[edit | edit source]

The howler the black company by irontree-d92syj0.jpg

Howler reappeared in the Annals after the Black Company reached Gea-Xle. Their flotilla on the great river was ambushed by native river pirates when passing through the swamps between Gea-Xle and Thresh. The Howler lost many of his swamp pirates to the Company's ingenious planning, including many who were consumed by the ravenous needleteeth fish. He kept himself concealed, however, until One-Eye and Goblin detected the presence of a sorcerer of high magnitude among the pirates. When the Howler joined the battle directly, One-Eye and Goblin were no match. He bombarded the barge at range with powerful skipping stones that threatened to sink them. Croaker then forced Lady on deck to reveal the presence of Shapeshifter, who was already disguised aboard the vessel. Croaker had the imp Frogface return Shifter's bizarre staff, and Shifter used it to dispense a devastating firestorm of explosive sorcery. Then, upon hearing the Howler's signature screams, the Black Company realized they had crossed paths with yet another member of the Ten who had been thought killed at Charm. Shapeshifter's power chased the Howler away from his swamp kingdom, and river was finally freed from the pirates' control.

Dreams of Steel[edit | edit source]

Persuaded by Longshadow's emissaries, the Howler entered into his second alliance with the two surviving Shadowmasters, and subsequently caused problems for Croaker and the Company throughout the Shadowmaster wars. In Dreams of Steel, the Howler was escorted on a sedan through the Grove of Doom by at least 128 former swamp pirates (still his minions after their expulsion from the great river 2,000 miles north of the Grove). His new partnership with the Shadowmasters was discovered by Croaker when he spied on the ancient sorcerer's movement.

Like the rest of the Shadowmasters, he was subject to their infighting and shifting loyalties. He secretly helped Shadowspinner recover from his wounds, seeing him as a better ally than Longshadow, much to the distress of Longshadow when he found out.

After Shadowspinner's death and Soulcatcher's increasingly frequent meddling, the Howler was then dispatched by Longshadow to kidnap Lady and return her as a prisoner to Overlook, to plumb her mind for her extensive knowledge of sorcery. The Howler did not know that Soulcatcher was masquerading as her sister Lady at the time. He and a handful of Longshadow's best soldiers ambushed Catcher in Taglios, but the Howler was horribly wounded when Croaker impaled him with the Lance of Passion. With few powerful allies remaining, Longshadow was forced heal the Howler, a process which took him six sleepless days. The Howler knew that Longshadow was only preserving him as a useful tool, and would dispose of him as soon as his usefulness evaporated.

Bleak Seasons[edit | edit source]

The Howler played an important role in the alliance between Longshadow and Narayan Singh, leader of the Stranglers. When a team of Black Company members and allies (including Murgen, One-Eye, Goblin, Thai Dei, Wishbone, and Wobble) raided a meeting between six shadowweavers and the Stranglers' leadership, Narayan Singh only escaped with the Daughter of Night by the direct intervention of the Howler. And, as Narayan Singh fell out of Longshadow's favor, he was kept alive only because of the Howler's intercession.

She Is the Darkness[edit | edit source]

Howler played a major role fighting against the Taglian offensive on the Shadowlands led by the Black Company, and was one of Longshadow's key commanders along with Mogaba, Blade and Narayan Singh. He unleashed Longshadow's avalanche of shadows during a hellish night attack on the Black Company at Lake Tanji. His mastery over magic and the advantage of his flying carpets caused significant harm to the invading forces, such as at the Battle of Charandaprash and the Siege of Overlook. Despite this, the reign of the Shadowmasters was to be overthrown.

When Overlook was taken by the Black Company, the Howler stole the copies of the Books of the Dead to deny them from the Daughter of Night realizing their true nature and danger, driven mostly out of self preservation. He then attempted to escape with Soulcatcher, but was severely injured when Longshadow released a hidden shadow from his fingernail during a face-off with the two Taken, Narayan, and the Daughter of Night. They escaped, excluding Narayan, using a mini carpet Howler kept in reserve in his robes. However, he was then betrayed by Soulcatcher and thrown from his own flying carpet, resulting in him freezing solid in the wilderness.

He was subsequently captured and remained a prisoner, until brought onto the glittering plain when Croaker led a scouting mission through the shadowgate. He became a member of the Captured when Soulcatcher trapped them in the cave of the ancients beneath the fortress with no name on the plain.

Water Sleeps[edit | edit source]

The Howler was able to maintain consciousness, and even the movement of his eyes, during his 15+ years stretch as one of the Captured. When Sleepy, Willow Swan, One-Eye, Ky Sahra, the Radisha Drah, and some others finally entered the cave of the ancients to free their friends among the Captured, Sleepy saw the Howler's eyes move and was frightened. She ordered that they do not liberate the Howler, or even get close to him, before they began freeing the other Captured.

Soldiers Live[edit | edit source]

Reawakened at Gharhawnes‏‎[edit | edit source]

The Howler was brought along in an unconscious state during the Company's march on Soulcatcher after their return to the homeworld from Hsien. He was reawakened on Sleepy's orders while they were in a recaptured Protectorate stronghold called Gharhawnes‏‎. He agreed to cooperate and manufacture flying carpets for them, as well as reluctantly tutor Tobo in the process of making them. In return, he was promised that Shivetya would remove the curse which afflicted him, as well as getting his revenge on Soulcatcher.

At the Battle of the Middle Ground[edit | edit source]

The Howler was an important combatant during the Battle of the Middle Ground. He and Tobo stalked the air over the battle aboard a flying carpet, and were prepared to fight Soulcatcher directly if they could pinpoint her. But she never exposed her location. When Soulcatcher's "deathflower" spells started killing her own men, they realized she had somehow been neutralized. As would soon be discovered, Soulcatcher had just been put into a kind of cursed coma by her two prisoners: the Khadidas and the Daughter of Night. The Howler and Tobo now turned their attention to Soulcatcher's Middle Army itself, and began dropping firebombs on the enemy ranks. Soon afterward, they were both rendered helpless after being flung from their carpet and injured. Shukrat, Croaker, Uncle Doj, Murgen, Thai Dei, and others attempted to rescue them without being detected by the Middle Army. But one of the Howler's uncontrollable shrieks alerted nearby enemies. Although the Howler and Tobo were eventually rescued, Uncle Doj and Thai Dei were killed in action.

Lady demanded that the Howler try to heal her sister Soulcatcher, but he was unable to help. Being one of the few capable of using a flying carpet, he accompanied Croaker, Lady, Tobo, and other members of the Company back to the glittering plain, in order to preserve Soulcatcher in the cave of the ancients. Shortly after his arrival, Shivetya finally cured the Howler of the namesake curse that afflicted him. (Meanwhile, the Howler's departure along with the other wizards left Sleepy's forces without sorcery. Soulcatcher's Great General Mogaba correctly surmised that his enemies' wizards were gone, and he initiated the costly Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery.)

At the Siege of Taglios[edit | edit source]

Despite finally being cured of his centuries-old howling affliction, the diminutive sorcerer's good fortune was short lived. He was killed along with Murgen, the First Father, Nashun the Researcher, and others by shadows during a disastrous attempt to capture Mogaba in the Palace of Taglios at the onset of the Siege of Taglios.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Black Company, chapter 6, "Lady"

Ten Who Were Taken
Soulcatcher • The Howler • The LimperShapeshifterStormbringer
The Hanged ManBonegnasherNightcrawlerMoonbiter • The Faceless Man
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