Black Company Wiki
Black Company Wiki

Hsien (referred to as the Land of Unknown Shadows by the Nyueng Bao émigrés) is one of the 16 worlds linked up by the glittering plain. The various peoples there collectively refer to themselves as the "Children of the Dead". Hsien was the strange new world entered into by the Black Company at the very end of Water Sleeps, and was one of the key locations of the early events of Soldiers Live. It was also the world from which the original Nyueng Bao emigrated.

Inexplicably, the physical geography of Hsien very closely resembles the topography and features of Croaker's homeworld as well as a third one called the Voroshk world. However, Hsien features entirely different moons, constellations, wildlife, and human civilizations.

Before the Annals[]

Creators of the shadows[]

In the distant past, cruel sorcerer-priests from Hsien were the creators the shadows of the glittering plain. They stole the souls of millions of prisoners of war who had been flooding the plain to conquer other worlds, and tortured them, transforming them into shadows of various sizes and endowing them with a hatred of all living things. The uncontrollable shadows were then released onto the plain. The intent was to completely shut down usage of the plain, particularly by more would-be warlords who wished to conquer worlds beyond their own.

The "Ancients", a group of completely mysterious men frozen for centuries in the cave of the ancients, appeared to come from Hsien and may be associated with, descended from, or one-and-the-same as the sorcerer-priests who created the shadows.

The shadows were soon locked onto the plain by the invention of the Shadowgates.

Conquered by the Shadowmasters[]

The civilizations in Hsien subsequently lived in a relative golden age for many generations.

Then, "a race of outsider sorcerers" called the Shadowmasters came from one of other worlds linked by the glittering plain, crossed the Hsien Shadowgate, and entered into Hsien. These "many lean, pale bonesacks" were "invaders from another world" who "brought no wives with them" and included Longshadow and Shadowspinner. They (ironically) conquered the world (or, at least its southern regions) using their power over some of the same shadows which the ancient sorcerers of Hsien had created so many generations prior. These mysterious, all-male conquerors were notoriously cruel, and their subjugation of Hsien was such that the many peoples there began to collectively call themselves "Children of the Dead".

Home of the Unknown Shadows[]

The First One, apparently the leader of the Shadowmasters, transformed a number of shadows from the plain into very different entities called the "hidden folk" or the Unknown Shadows. These intelligent entities despised their feral, "undomesticated cousins", the shadows of the plain.

The Unknown Shadows eventually hid themselves from the Children of the Dead for so long that by Croaker's lifetime they were long considered to be merely spook stories from ignorant peasants. However, despite their disappearance, they must have had a noteworthy impact on human civilization, as the descendants of the Children of the Dead would refer to their world as the "Land of Unknown Shadows".

Escape of the Nyueng Bao[]

A subset of the Children of the Dead worshiped Kina. The Shadowmasters religiously persecuted them, demanding they surrender their cult beliefs. A group of these families chose to flee their world entirely, rather than give up their faith. They created a Shadowgate key (the Nyueng Bao ancestor key) and escaped across the plain into the southern continent of a different world, where they became known as the Nyueng Bao. Centuries later, by the time of Soldiers Live, the Nyueng Bao had long "developed as a cultural island constantly washed by alien waves" (most noticeably, their adoption of the deity Ghanghesha of their new world's Gunni religion). Except for commonalities in their languages, they grew to have little in common with the descendants of those who remained in Hsien.

There are conflicting origin stories about the Nyueng Bao. In one story, they promised to return to Hsien and overthrow the Shadowmasters. But over the generations, they abandoned or forgot this promise and instead simply feared that they would be recalled back to their accursed world of Hsien. In another story, a narrative detailed by the extensively-educated Tobo, the Nyueng Bao were the vanguard of what was supposed to be multiple waves of further refugees. In this account, they even sent their Shadowgate key back to Hsien to permit more escapees to join them, but none ever did. If this account is accurate, it is conceivable that the Nyueng Bao ancestor key is the same as Longshadow's lost key.

Final 2 Shadowmasters exiled[]

In Hsien, the "outsider sorcerers" were eventually reduced to merely two surviving Shadowmasters: Merika Montera (later called Longshadow), and Achoes Tosiak-shah (later called Shadowspinner). These two were finally, somehow, overthrown and exiled, and they escaped Hsien by fleeing into the plain with their shadowweavers. (They then entered Croaker's homeworld using a mysterious Shadowgate key, following the footsteps of the Nyueng Bao, and soon established themselves as as conquerors in that world, carving out the Shadowlands.)

Meanwhile, the peoples of Hsien, although now free, still lived with the trauma of their subjugation, and even their grandchildren referred to themselves as the "Children of the Dead". Additionally, since the flight of the Shadowmasters, all the peoples of Hsien agreed to root out and kill any wizard that became known. This persecution of magical talent is the origin of the phrase "All Evil Dies There an Endless Death", a saying which was associated with the world, and also explains why the Black Company found no sorcerers there.

Rise of the File of Nine[]

In the power vacuum left behind by the Shadowmasters, there was "terrible chaos" and widespread violence. As Croaker the Annalist detailed in Soldiers Live:

The flight of the last Shadowmasters left a power vacuum. The resistance chieftains anointed themselves to fill it. Hsien remains in the custody of their descendants, scores of warlords in constant conflict, few of whom ever get any stronger. Any who appear to be gaining strength are torn apart by their neighbors.

Then, a council of anonymous warlords called the File of Nine created a fragile peace. Croaker summarized them as a "loose assembly of senior warlords, supposedly drawn one each from the nine provinces of Hsien. This is not true and never has been--though few outside the Nine know it. That is just one more fiction helping keep the current state of chaos alive."

Whenever some warlord attempted to gain additional power, the File would gang up to restore the status quo and preserve the existing balance of power. The File of Nine ideally sought to re-establish the golden age that existed before the arrival of the Shadowmasters.

Another significant organization in Hsien was the Court of All Seasons, based in Quang Ninh City which was very far away from Hsien's Shadowgate. It was comprised of aristocrats called "Noble Judges", who, though they were "little more than decorative" and had no significant finances, did enjoy "demonstrative moral authority". A third organization of note was the collective of the universally-respected monks of Khang Phi. The monks posted a permanent watch on the Shadowgate, in case the dreaded Shadowmasters would ever return.

Water Sleeps[]

The Black Company, a mercenary band from an entirely different world, escaped to Hsien after rescuing the Captured at the end of Water Sleeps. They were immediately spotted by the vigilant monks of Khang Phi, and soon established a wary peace with all the local warlords.

Soldiers Live[]

Near Hsien's Shadowgate, the Company built up their strength for 4 years, recruited about 8,000 mostly young men from the local populace, built a sizable military city called the Abode of Ravens, and trained their newest wizard Tobo (son of Murgen and Sahra). Tobo quickly befriended the Unknown Shadows, mysterious entities native to Hsien, that had been living in hiding for generations and were little more than spook stories to the humans of Hsien.

The Company vied for the knowledge to repair the Shadowgates so they could return to their world and destroy Soulcatcher. They infiltrated the great library of Khang Phi and stole the knowledge. In response, the File of Nine formed an army to attack them and prevent them from reopening the Shadowgate. The File feared that Shadowmasters might return to subjugate them; they wanted custody of Longshadow, the Company's prisoner, to take revenge upon him. Tobo used the Unknown Shadows to terrify the advancing army until it was disbanded. The Company left Hsien and was now comprised primarily of thousands of Children of the Dead. Although many of them signed on for only 1 year in the field, they were loyal because they "wanted to shed the feudal chains of Hsien" in hopes of making fortunes.

Later, Tobo disentangled the homeworld Shadowgate from Longshadow's true name. Only then did Shivetya permit Longshadow to be sent out of the fortress with no name and back to Hsien, so that the Children of the Dead could enact justice upon him at long last. What they did to him was not recorded by Croaker the Annalist, but was presumably unpleasant.

At the end of the Annals, the entire Black Company was marching back to Hsien with Suvrin as its Captain after the band fulfilled its mission to overthrow the Protectorate.

Black Company men from Hsien[]

  • General Chu: a brigade commander, and later, Sleepy's chief of staff
  • The Chu Ming brothers: two soldiers who were trustworthy enough to be given one of Tobo's Shadowgate keys
  • The Chun brothers: siblings who were noteworthy fatalities of the Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery
  • Li Wan: a noteworthy fatality of the Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery
  • Lucky: a commando; birth name: Tam Do Linh
  • Minh Bhu: an excellent ranger and one of the best Company soldiers from Hsien
  • Panda Man: an older-than-average hardcase and solid veteran of Hsien's warlord conflicts
  • Pham Huu Clee: a noteworthy fatality of the Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery
  • Spook: an older-than-average hardcase and solid veteran of Hsien's warlord conflicts
  • Tam Duc: a trainee recruit who was killed in a peacetime accident shortly before Soldiers Live
  • Tea Nung: a cavalry officer appearing in the Annals after the capture of Gharhawnes
  • Tso Lien: a fiercely loyal officer
  • Vanh: a sergeant