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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.

Overview[]

The wizard One-Eye was familiar with nulls, and in Shadows Linger, he explained Darling's ability as follows:

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[]

The null divests all wizards, regardless of their magnitude, of their sorcery for as long as they are within it. 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.

Detection[]

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".[1] 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.

Examples in history[]

The first White Rose[]

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 actually defeated the Domination. Notably, "there had been nothing in the histories about her powers or their noteworthy absence"[2] according to Croaker, who had read everything he could get his hands on regarding the female general. However, One-Eye and the Black Company as a whole would realize that she must have had a null. With her null, in skilled combination with her armies and her own numerous powerful sorcerers in the Great Forest, she defeated the Dominator, his wife the Lady, and the Ten Who Were Taken, and imprisoned them within the Barrowland.

Darling[]

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.

Croaker, "Bone Eaters"

More than 4 centuries later, the young woman Darling was widely thought to be the reincarnation of the White Rose. She used her null in the following noteworthy situations.

In The Black Company:

  1. The very first manifestation of Darling's null occurred outside the Tower at Charm. Darling foiled an assassination attempt against her guardian Raven. A mysterious attacker evidently kept Raven subdued with a sleep spell, but, Darling was inexplicably unaffected. She swatted away the assailant with her doll. One-Eye and the Captain reported this confusing event to Croaker, but the girl's unique ability would only be understood after later events. (Croaker would immediately surmise that the failed assassin must have been Soulcatcher or possibly Stormbringer. )[3]
  2. A few nights later, the next manifestation of her null was much more public, during the bloody chaos of the Battle of Charm... but only One-Eye (and not Croaker until at least 6 years later) understood it. A Rebel knockout spell knocked down the Company's second platoon, which included Raven. Darling was unaffected despite her proximity. She quickly woke up Raven and several others, who sprung back into battle when this should not have been possible.[4]

In the short stories of the On The Long Run arc:

  1. When the Company was sailing the waters of the Gap, a mysterious youngster called Luckless was high up in the mainmast of Cranky Bitch, where he seemed to be attempting to escape the reach of Darling's null. He was shot by Hagop with his sniper's crossbow and carried back into the null by One-Eye.[5]
  2. Darling's null is used in several situations in "Leta of the Thousand Sorrows". In Leta's sorcery-charged clearing, the null causes a dozen-yard semicircle of strangely-marked grass to react by leaning away from Darling. When Leta appears in multiple places simultaneously to have sex with the men, Darling exhausts herself trying to keep them within her null. Eventually, Leta becomes substiantial enough to actually pass through the null. Later, when the new Taken try to compromise people with sorcery, Darling's null exposes a "dullard" named Jago and a camp follower named Iris as the victims.
  3. Darling used her null to intimidate the strange river mermaids who had abducted Showboy and his dog Ralf.[6]
  4. Darling's null helped heal some, but not all, of the six Company newcomers from Chimney who had incautiously fallen victim to attempted possession by spirits of the Grand Memorial to Our Honored Dead. The null did not have a uniform effect on the victims. Rusty recovered enough to continue the trek through the western wilderness on his own two feet; Spangler remained unconscious for hours; another seemed to be either fully possessed or insane; and at least one other disappeared into the forest.[7]
  5. Darling used her null to protect Elmo, Croaker, Otto, Hagop, and Rusty during their mission to exterminate the lethal spirits which haunted the Village of Hungry Ghosts[8]

In The White Rose:

  1. Her null was the focal point of her New White Rose Rebellion against the new Taken of the Lady's Empire in numerous instances throughout The White Rose. It was especially potent against the new Taken until the Lady invented several brilliant technologies and tactics to defeat its effectiveness.
  2. Finally, Darling's null was an absolutely essential weapon against the Dominator himself and his pet Barrowland demons 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.

References[]

  1. The White Rose ch. 53
  2. Shadows Linger ch. 40
  3. The Black Company ch. 7:

    The Captain said, “Somebody tried to knife Raven last night. Darling ran him off. [...] Something woke her up. She whacked the guy in the head with her doll. Whoever it was got away.” [...] One-Eye said[:] “Why would Raven sleep through and a deaf kid wake up? Raven can hear the footfall of a gnat. Smells of sorcery. Cockeyed sorcery. The kid shouldn’t have awakened.”

  4. The Black Company ch. 7:

    “Talking about the kid, you see what happened when they tried to clobber second platoon with some kind of knockout spell? It was weird. The kid acted like nothing ever happened. Everybody else went down like a rock. She just looked kind of puzzled and shook Raven. Up he came, bam, hacking away. She shook them all back awake. Like the magic couldn’t touch her, or something.”

  5. "Cranky Bitch" short story
  6. "Wet Dream Fish Story" short story
  7. "Those Who Went Before" short story
  8. "Bone Eaters" short story
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