|“||Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself.||”|
–From back cover of the The Black Company
The Lady (born Dorotea Senjak) was the ruler of much of the northern continent for generations: first, alongside her husband the Dominator for about a century; and later, on her own. She was an extremely powerful sorceress, a brilliant tactician, and a natural leader. Throughout her time in the north, four major milestones in her life were marked by passages of the Great Comet.
After losing her ability to employ sorcery at the Battle of the Barrowland, she dropped her "the" honorific (becoming simply Lady) and departed her empire, never to return. In the southern continent, she would officially join the Black Company and even marry its Captain, Croaker, to whom she had been attracted for years. Her child with him was kidnapped by the cult of the Stranglers shortly after birth.
Lady had a hand in the history of the Company for decades: beginning when she hired them to serve alongside her Imperial forces in the war against the Rebel armies of the Circle of Eighteen; continuing with her indispensable leadership and inventions during the Shadowmaster wars; and ending with the final struggle against the dark goddess Kina.
Before the Annals Edit
The Lady was one of four daughters of Baron Senjak, a noble from an unspecified western kingdom. She claimed that her mother was the basis of the Sleeping Beauty legend, and that her father took no pains seeking a cure for her ailment. Rather he was content to let her sleep as she bore him daughters. Centuries later, the Lady and her sister would spend years in similar slumbers, trapped inside both the Barrowland and then the cave of the ancients. Reminiscing about her mother, she would wonder if it were a curse that the women in her family were destined to spend much of their adult lives in enchanted slumbers.
Little is known about Dorotea's childhood, and the veracity of the information that was uncovered is questionable. It is certain that she and her three sisters Sylith, Credence, and Ardath rivaled one another in their beauty. Her sister, who became the Taken known as Soulcatcher, told Croaker once that the Lady murdered her twin sister. However, the genealogies that Croaker and Tracker translated state that "Dorotea" was the youngest of the daughters and did not mention a twin. Later information revealed that the histories were half-truths, promoted by the Lady and Soulcatcher themselves to protect their true names. Perhaps the only other detail of Dorotea's early youth was that she was not present when her father, Baron Senjak, brought her three sisters (Sylith, Credence, and Ardath) to a gigantic aristocratic party, during which everyone's names and titles were announced by heralds and scribbled by a record-keeper. The paper records from this otherwise insignificant event would prove to be fateful about four centuries later.
Sometime in her youth she married the Dominator. It was a political alliance and a loveless marriage that was never consummated. They never knew one another's true names. Together they orchestrated the defeat and capture of their ten most powerful sorcerer adversaries. The Dominator used the horrible Rite of Taking to transform these rivals into the Ten Who Were Taken: enslaved enforcers. The period of the Domination, which lasted about one century, was remembered as an age of evil when the Dominator enforced his will on his subjects with the Lady by his side. None could stand against their might until a mysterious woman called the White Rose led a successful rebellion against them. Even then, their power was so great that they could not be wholly destroyed. Instead, the Lady, the Dominator, and the Ten were locked away in the magically-guarded Great Barrow at the center of the Barrowland in the Great Forest, north of their former empire.
Resurrection and new EmpireEdit
Three hundred and seventy years after the end of the Domination, a wizard named Bomanz attempted to make contact with the Lady to learn from her. He thought he knew her true name, and was prepared to use it to protect himself and to compel her. Unaware that she was subtly guiding the hidden organization of the Resurrectionists the whole time (including his own son Stancil) he accidentally played a role in liberating her and the Ten Who Were Taken. Unexpectedly, she somehow left her husband trapped in his grave to build an Empire of her own. After wiping out the remaining Resurrectionists "root and branch" to ensure the Dominator remained imprisoned, she and the Ten constructed the imposing Tower at Charm. The Taken then marched forth from there and reconquered the old territories of her husband in the consolidation wars. Then, they expanded to new territories.
The Black CompanyEdit
Eventually, the Rebel rose up around the banner of the White Rose against the Lady and her Taken. They were commanded by a group of wizards who called themselves the Circle of Eighteen, and their strength was in the east, especially in giant border cities like Rust. The fighting grew fiercer and the Circle managed some impressive victories over the Imperials. Seeking to annex the oldest of the Jewel Cities in the south, the Lady sent Soulcatcher to Beryl as her legate. Soulcatcher sought to gain the service of Beryl's navy, but ended up with a much greater prize. The Black Company, last of the Free Companies of Khatovar, was under the employ of the Syndic of Beryl, though they wished to be free of their contract. Soulcatcher, never one to let an opportunity slip away, engineered the assassination of the Syndic, securing both the commission of the Black Company, and the support of Beryl through a new puppet Syndic who was loyal to the Lady's Empire.
With the Black Company supporting her army, the Lady again attempted to secure her hold on her empire. After several impressive victories, including the slaying of Raker, one of the Circle, the Lady began to take notice of the Company. Especially of the physician, Croaker, who in his spare time had been writing romantic fantasies about the Lady herself. After the Company stumbled into a cache of Rebel intelligence in the Forest of Cloud that documented the betrayal of one of her own Taken, the Limper, Lady decided to reward the Company.
She chose two of their members, Croaker and the newest recruit, Raven, and had them lay an ambush for the Limper and the best Rebel general, Whisper. The trap was successful. Raven was rewarded with the chance to slay the Limper, who had engineered Raven's own downfall less than a year ago. Croaker was rewarded when the Lady herself arrived. After being subjected to her Eye, which laid his mind bare to her, he was permitted to see her perform the Rite of Taking on Whisper, making her the first person to be Taken in centuries, and the first of the new Taken. The Lady also tortured the Limper and had him flown by her dragonfly demon back to Charm, but only after all his hated enemies refused to execute him.
After this, the Lady shifted focus to the far east of her realm, sending Whisper to crush the Rebels there. Meanwhile the Black Company proved to be the Empire's best fighters but seemed to be stuck in a perpetual state of retreat towards Charm. Harden and the bulk of the Rebel army dogged their steps. Once her forces had been gathered at Charm, the Lady's strategy became evident. She meant to make one final battle to rid her empire of the Rebel once and for all. Using information gleaned from Croaker's mind, she also realized that several of her Taken were plotting against her. Before the battle began in earnest, the Black Company managed to capture two recent replacement members of the Circle, the newlyweds Feather and Journey. They were the next to be enslaved by the Rite of Taking and became the second and third new Taken.
Battle of Charm Edit
The Battle of Charm began in force, and Croaker was chosen to document it all as he saw it, by the Lady's side. He wrote later that he thought her biggest fear was history portraying her inaccurately, should she lose. During the battle, the Lady was betrayed by the three women among the Ten Who Were Taken. But even as the loyalists and traitors among the Ten killed each other, the Lady's gambit was a success. Through the battle she rid herself of the Rebel leadership (the Circle) and nearly the entirety of their forces. Of the Ten Who Were Taken, only the Limper would survive in her service (and secretly, Shapeshifter). Even her dangerous, traitorous sister Soulcatcher was decapitated by Croaker and presumed dead.
After the Battle of Charm there was little resistance to the Empire any longer. The highly decorated Black Company hunted remnants of the Rebel army, and continued to stamp out the fires of rebellion where they could find them. But peace was not destined to last.
The Lady received troubling news and a plea for help from Duke Zimerlan, ruler of Juniper, a port city far outside the borders of her empire. Suspicious of her husband's involvement in this trouble, the Lady ordered the Black Company to the Barrowland. A select few trusted members, including Croaker whom the Lady had not forgotten, were flown to Juniper to investigate the mysterious Black Castle.
With the help of the new Taken, and some locals, the Company was able to confirm the Lady's fears. The Black Castle was a doorway the Dominator meant to use to break back into the world. The Lady traveled to Juniper and led an attack on the castle. The Dominator was foiled, but not without cost to the Lady. One of the new Taken, Feather, was slain and the entire Black Company deserted the Lady upon the discovery of Whisper's conspiracy against them. They set a trap for the Limper, whom the Lady had rehabilitated before the Battle of Charm. The Limper was dismembered and left for dead once again, and the Company escaped with a mute young girl named Darling (considered correctly by the Company to be the reborn White Rose) into the Plain of Fear.
The White RoseEdit
After 2 years of calm, the Lady began amassing her forces on the border of the Plain of Fear. She had added 5 additional members to the new Taken by this time, and all of their armies prepared to destroy the Black Company and the White Rose. Their conflict was left unresolved due to the rise of a bigger evil, the return of the Dominator. The two sides joined forces and managed to defeat him at great costs. No longer being on opposed sides, Croaker and Lady grew a bit closer. Immediately after the fighting was finished in the Battle of the Barrowland, the Lady unexpectedly closed the Rite of Naming on Darling, stripping away the White Rose's anti-magic null power. In immediate retaliation, the enraged Company sorcerer Silent did the same thing to the Lady. Though still alive, the Lady was now a mere mortal for the first time in her life, powerless in the ways of sorcery and vulnerable as never before. Her new vulnerability was not publicly known, however, so she still conducted herself as a vastly powerful sorceress. She headed back to the Tower at Charm with the 6 remaining members of the Black Company as her new personal bodyguard.
The Lady decided to leave the Empire, as her loss of sorcery would eventually be discovered and she would be overthrown. But she needed some time to set up a successor and make sure that things wouldn't fall apart, leaving Croaker to wait and worry whether she would accompany him southward at all.
Lady brings a wagon filled with magical artifacts, as well as a troop of her personal guard and they set south for Khatovar. She dines with him in Opal, surrounded for the very last time by fawning, awestruck servants and subjects. She cancels the barge Croaker had arranged for the transit across the Sea of Torments, and instead orders that flagship of the empire, The Dark Wings, transport them all.
Lady discovers that she is somehow regaining her talent for sorcery. She begins to train in secret to build her weakened power up. Croaker gets suspicious of her two guests and calls her out on their boat ride down to the great river's Third Cataract while they are being attacked by the Howler and his swamp pirates. She agrees to follow Croaker's orders and to stop keeping secrets from him. In return, Croaker has Frogface return Shapeshifter's staff, which Shifter uses to blast the Howler's pirates into complete defeat.
Then it turned out that armed resistance and the troubles weren't a coincidence, but were caused by a new enemy. The Company's military expertise was requested by the Taglian prince, the Prahbrindrah Drah, and his influential sister, the princess Radisha Drah. With the Company now directing the Taglian military in the Shadowmaster wars, Lady decided to add some psychological warfare tactics to their arsenal by commissioning some terrifying armor sets. Astride their massive black stallions at the Battle of Ghoja Ford, Lady and Croaker suit up in the new armor in which she is known as Lifetaker and Croaker is Widowmaker. With her flashy armor and her talent for sorcery inexplicably being restored, they set off to liberate Dejagore, the city referred to by its captors as Stormgard. Unbeknownst to Lady her costume resembled the goddess Kina slightly. She and Croaker finally confess their love to each other the night before the battle with the Shadowmaster relief force.
The Battle of Dejagore goes awry as Croaker is pierced by an arrow and unhorsed. Murgen takes Croaker's Widowmaker armor and attempts to stem the tide of a dangerous retreat. Lady is left to witness the entire event. She battles fiercely towards Croaker, cutting down all in her path in a trance-like state. But as the battle turns increasingly sour, her panic overwhelms her. Her focus breaks and her skill is replaced with desperation to save her beloved. The enemy senses her change and pushes her from her mount. Thought to be dead, she was then buried underneath corpses.
Dreams of SteelEdit
Lady soon escaped the abandoned battleground and found a hollow, sleeping there for the night. She awakened hearing a patrol of two Shadowlanders on her behind. She struggled to form a Hammer of Light and violently beats her victims. She met two men, Narayan Singh and friend, who claimed to have stumbled upon her. They also claimed to be her guards for the night and they escorted her to safety.
Back in Taglios Lady used the skills of Narayan to rebuild the Black Company, who along with Blade was made a leaders in her militia. Singh showed her his assassination techniques and also involved her in the dark rituals of his cult, which some time later proved to be a poor choice on her behalf.
Meanwhile more problems needed resolution, as the religious leaders tried to eliminate Lady by informing her that custom in Taglios is to commit suicide when your husband dies. The priests abused the fact that Lady is not a follower of their customs and profaned her for not following custom as the other dead soldiers' wives did. Guided and assisted by Narayan, Lady sneaked into the priests' camp and killed the head priest by strangulation, as demanded by Naryan's cult traditions.
Later Lady had a meeting with the Taglian prince, Prahbrindrah Drah, in the Gardens. She informed him that she had taken the Black Company's charter over and would absolutely receive payment for their service when she were finished, reminding him of the penalties of not paying.
After the meeting she had several more confrontations with the religious leaders of Taglios, who refused to unify in the face of the Shadowmaster threat. Lady finally grew tired of their meddling and designed a plan to get rid of them. She had the major priests of all three Taglian religions – Gunni, Vehdna, and Shadar – gather in a city square, where they were ambushed and killed by her soldiers. The Massacre at Khadi Junction succeeded in giving the Prahbrindrah and his sister, Radisha Drah (the Black Company's employers) firmer control over their sovereignty. But eliminating the religious leaders did not protect her from a scheme among her own allies. Trusting Narayan Singh and his Stranglers now bore terrible fruit: as soon as her daughter was born, they attacked the Palace of Taglios and kidnapped the newborn.
Bleak Seasons and She Is the DarknessEdit
The Company, with Lady as her husband's Lieutenant (second-in-command), spent the next several years as the champions of Taglios in the final stages of the Shadowmaster wars. Lady personally invented and organized the mass production of the fireball projectors, a new type of weapon to counter the enemy's terrifying and lethal shadows. Without these weapons the Company would have been completely exterminated by the avalanche of shadows that attacked at the Battle of Lake Tanji and again during the Siege of Overlook.
Throughout these years, she and Croaker also used resources of the Company, and Taglios in general, to mercilessly persecute the Stranglers and attempt to reclaim her kidnapped daughter.
At the end of She Is the Darkness, Lady, Croaker, and other members/allies/prisoners of the Company were outsmarted by Soulcatcher. Lady's insane sister imprisoned them in a stasis field in the cave of the ancients beneath the fortress with no name in the center of the glittering plain.
Lady and the other Captured remained frozen throughout the 15-year gap between She Is the Darkness and Water Sleeps. Sleepy, the ranking member of the Company (Annalist) not to be captured, still respected that Croaker was Captain and Lady was Lieutenant throughout this entire period, despite their coma-like imprisonment. Sleepy awakened Lady alongside Croaker, Murgen, Thai Dei, and the Prahbrindrah Drah at the end of Water Sleeps.
Lady spent the next four years at the Abode of Ravens in Hsien. She accompanied her husband to the Voroshk world in the special mission to assassinate Lisa Daele Bowalk, the forvalaka. She was stunned by her husband's move which tricked the Voroshk into blasting open their own shadowgate, leaving their entire world open to a nightmarish shadow invasion.
In the homeworld, the long-awaited reunion with her daughter ended in tragedy, as the girl attempted to strangle her with a rumel. Croaker was late to intervene and Lady was left in a coma. She was healed with Tobo's intercession. Soon after, she was given an incredible gift: she had her immense talent with sorcery restored by Croaker after he switched places with Shivetya.
Many names Edit
Ardath and Dorotea Edit
Lady was one of four sisters: Dorotea, Credence, Sylith, and Ardath, the daughters of Baron Senjak. Dorotea may have been the eldest – she was older than Ardath and older than either Credence or Sylith, perhaps both. She may have also been a twin, though that sister died before she was old enough to marry. While the passing of centuries obscured their history, the sisters themselves were the real source of the confusion. In order to hide their true names they decided at a young age to switch their names. The Lady, born Dorotea Senjak, was known to the world as Ardath Senjak.
The switch was extremely successful. At the Battle of Juniper, the Dominator tried to use the Lady's true name to disarm her using the Rite of Naming, but was wrong when he named her Ardath. She mockingly used the name Ardath when she accompanied Croaker to the Hole in disguise.
Later, at the Battle of the Barrowland, the Dominator incorrectly guessed "Sylith", which surprised Croaker since he also thought Sylith was her true name. The Limper named her Credence, also incorrectly, and suffered gravely for his mistake. Finally, Silent utilized her true name, correct only by process of elimination. And, although it was not stated explicitly in the Annals, this exposed Soulcatcher's true name to be Credence Senjak. The Dominator knew Soulcatcher's true name, using it to Take her centuries ago, and he would not have used Soulcatcher's name in his two attempts ("Ardath" and "Sylith") to disarm the Lady.
"The" honorific Edit
In the northern continent, while she was one of the most powerful sorcerers alive, Dorotea Senjak was known as the Lady. Later, after she lost her powers and traveled south, she dropped the honorific and became simply Lady.