A null is an invisible field in which sorcery – the powers of a wizard – do not function. In the Black Company series, only Darling is seen to be gifted in such a way, and, by deduction, the historical woman called the White Rose must have had this power as well. Others are known to have had the same power in the past, but they are not named or detailed in any way.
The power of Darling's null is first seen in two incidents in The Black Company: she foiled an assassination attempt against Raven, and, during combat in the Battle of Charm, she defeated a Rebel sleep spell. Her null is described in fuller detail, and played a vital role, in the narratives of "Bone Eaters" and The White Rose.
|“||She's also a magical null-point... Magic won't work around her. We noticed that clean back at Charm. And if she follows true for her sort, the null will get stronger as she gets older... Some people are negatives. Instead of having a talent for sorcery, they go the other way. It won't work around them. And when you think about it, that's the only way the White Rose makes sense. How could a deaf and dumb kid grow up to challenge the Lady or Dominator on their own ground? I'll bet the original White Rose didn't.||”|
The null emanates naturally from the body, grows outward with age, and with practice can be expanded and shaped.
Effects and limitations Edit
The null divests all wizards, regardless of their magnitude, of their sorcery. However, it cannot undo genuine transformations that were already effected by magic beforehand. So while it can defeat glamors, which are all actively maintained, it will not change someone back to their original shape if they truly transformed themselves. For this reason, the Lady was able to enter Darling's null personally, and remained undetected throughout her time in the Hole in the Plain of Fear, because she changed her physical appearance beforehand.
Spells which were cast upon objects, like the imprisoning fetishes of the Barrowland, disappeared utterly when Darling came within range of them.
The null field is itself subject to the laws of sorcery, even though its effects are anti-sorcery. This means, if the possessor of a null is subjected to the Rite of Naming, their null disappears forever. The "closing" portion of the Rite of Naming may even be completed within the null itself. But presumably the preceding rituals (which are never explained in the Annals) would need to occur outside the null beforehand.
Though a null is invisible, it can be felt like a physical sensation. This experience is most pronounced for sorcerers, for example Bomanz, who, upon entering Darling's null outside the Blue Willy, exclaimed: "Lords! She's strong! ... An incredible absorption, I feel helpless as a child". But, it can also be detected by those with no talents in sorcery whatsoever, like Croaker.
The Lady, an ingenious strategist, devised a way to outline the null to the naked eye in The White Rose. She invented special smoke pots which, when dropped onto Darling's null from flying carpets overheard, outlined the border of the null for all to see. She demonstrated these (and other new tactics) personally alongside her new Taken and the Limper in aerial combat against Darling's fearsome army a few miles outside the town of Horse.
The White Rose Edit
The histories which survived from the period of the White Rose Rebellion (407 years before The Black Company) do not describe how the White Rose ended the Domination. However, One-Eye and the Black Company as a whole realize that she must have had a null. With her null, her armies, and many skilled sorcerers, she defeated the Dominator, his wife the Lady, and the Ten Who Were Taken, and imprisoned them within the Barrowland.
|“||Darling's null, though, never spread out enough for general use in battle. We employed her in ambushes and where sorcery-capable antagonists were unaware of what they faced.||”|
More than 4 centuries later, Darling – widely thought to be the reincarnation of the White Rose – used her null in 3 key situations:
- to exterminate the lethal spirits which haunted the Village of Hungry Ghosts ("Bone Eaters"),
- as the focal point of her New White Rose Rebellion against the Lady's Empire, and finally,
- against the Dominator himself at the Battle of the Barrowland.
It was especially potent against the new Taken until the Lady invented several brilliant technologies and tactics to defeat its effectiveness. When Darling and the Lady established a truce to become allies against the Dominator, the null was the absolutely essential foundation of his final defeat at the Battle of the Barrowland. But, at the end of that battle, the Lady used the Rite of Naming to strip away Darling's supernatural power, and her null disappeared permanently.