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The Lady's Empire was established by the Lady in the northern continent after she and the Ten Who Were Taken were liberated from the Barrowland. Many of the events of the Books of the North, as well as the opening events of Shadow Games and much of The Silver Spike, took place within the Empire.

The Lady would recount to Narayan Singh in Dreams of Steel, two years after departing her empire, that it spanned 2,000 miles from north to south, and it could not be crossed east to west on foot in a year's time. The flagship of the empire was Soulcatcher's massive galley, the quinquireme called The Dark Wings.

Overview: culture and government[]

The Lady was the unquestioned head of state. She used the power of the Eye to guarantee the loyalty of her subjects. Next were the Ten Who Were Taken, who, according to Croaker in The Black Company, expended "terrible energies" keeping the Empire monolithic. With the use of flying carpets and the supernatural black stallions, they were able to traverse incredible distances faster than anyone else. Other key persons in the Empire were:

Upon the dissolution of the Empire (mentioned in Port of Shadows, which must have occurred sometime after the events of Bleak Seasons), the surviving Imperial proconsuls were presumably either overthrown or became independent sovereigns.

The Lady's Empire was feudal, broken up into several separate fiefdoms, each ruled over by one of the Taken, each fiefdom having somewhat different styles of governance and culture. Territories in the west and the south were relatively peaceful, except for Opal, governed by the Limper, which was characterized by his sponsorship of violent power grabs among the nobility.

Predecessor empire: the Domination[]

At least 370 years before the Lady established her Empire, she was the wife of the Dominator, a violent tyrant who controlled a significant portion of the northern continent. This was the Domination, which lasted for about one century. This empire ended with the White Rose Rebellion, during which the Dominator, the Lady, and the Ten Who Were Taken were imprisoned within subterranean chambers called the Barrowland in the Great Forest.

Founding and expansion[]

The Lady escapes the Barrowland[]

By manipulating the Resurrectionists led by Tokar, the Lady effected her escape from the Barrowland 370 years after being imprisoned there (10 passages of the Great Comet). Although the Ten escaped with her, she kept her husband the Dominator and his pet demons trapped. Though she was now free to create her own sovereignty, the specter of her furious husband was destined to loom menacingly over her Empire for the entirety of her time as empress.

The Lady's very first move was to wipe out the Resurrectionists, so that they could not follow through with their original intent, which had been the resurrection of her husband. The Eternal Guard, formerly an independent military unit, now answered to the Lady while still remaining committed to keeping her husband trapped as before.

The consolidation wars[]

Then, she and the Taken built the imposing Tower at Charm. From the completed Tower, they raised armies and waged the consolidation wars, growing her new empire by rapidly conquering the various kingdoms which had sprung up in the aftermath of the Domination. Her new empire spanned well over a thousand miles from north to south, as estimated by Croaker on his journey from Opal to Oar, though he stated that more lay further north still. The borders of the Lady's Empire continued to grow, about four decades after her resurrection, to include Beryl on the southern continent, where the Black Company took the Imperial commission.

Subjugation of the Sea of Torments[]

In "Cranky Bitch", Croaker recounted that the Sea of Torments had been plagued by piracy before the establishment of the Lady's Empire. The Empire's prescription for securing these critical waters was merciless. Imperial marines killed every person and animal in the pirates' hamlets and then burned them to the ground. Ten years after this bloody program began, piracy was truly eliminated from the Sea. Since the Empire was only 45 years old at the time of "Cranky Bitch", Croaker's mention of "fifty years" seems to be an estimation, and suggests that the Empire began this program very early after its formation.

The Empire patrolled the Sea and the Strait of Vermust to its west, but no further. Mercantile ships entering the Strait from independent port cities like Juniper, Meadenvil, Chimney, Kadith, and others benefited immensely from the safety of the Lady's waters. In non-Imperial waters like the Gap, vessels were subject to the piracy of the Pocatose.

Surrender to the Will of the Night slogan[]

In Water Sleeps, a former subject of the Lady's Empire named Willow Swan explained that a slogan among the Empire's supporters was "Surrender to the Will of the Night". And, at least according to his assessment, the Lady's Empire satisfactorily minimized crime, war, plague, pestilence, and famine in its interior regions. He explained:

Surrender to the Will of the Night. [...] In my great grandfather’s time it was the slogan of the Lady’s supporters. They believed that peace, prosperity and security would result inevitably if all power could be concentrated in the hands of the right strong-willed person. And it did turn out that way, more or less. In principalities that did ‘Surrender to the Will of the Night,’ particularly near the core of the empire, there were generations of peace and prosperity. Plague, pestilence and famine were uncommon. Warfare was a curiosity going on far, far away. Criminals were hunted down with a ferocity that overawed all but the completely crazy ones. But there was always bad trouble along the frontiers. The Lady’s minions, the Ten Who Were Taken, all wanted to build sub-empires of their own, which never lacked for external enemies. And they all had their own ancient feuds with one another. Hell, even peace and prosperity create enemies. If you’re doing all right, there’s always somebody who wants to take it away from you.

The Black Company[]

Rebellion of the Circle of Eighteen[]

At least three years before the opening events of The Black Company, several huge cities along the Empire's eastern border (most notably Rust) became the epicenter of a significant Rebel movement. It soon inspired violence in the northern Imperial province of Forsberg as well. An extended family of high-magnitude wizards–including Whisper, Raker, and Harden–were the key players of the Rebel high command, called the Circle of Eighteen.

The Taken and their armies fought to defend the Lady's Empire in numerous battles against the Circle throughout the east and north. The Black Company was contracted by Soulcatcher to serve the Lady during this time. It would be revealed that the Circle was deeply influenced by the Dominator, who was using the Rebel as a tool to first defeat his wife and then to later free himself from the Barrowland.

Battle of Charm[]

The Empire weathered the Circle's Rebel storm in a climactic, bloody victory at the Battle of Charm. By the end of this battle, only the Limper would remain of the original Ten Who Were Taken. The Black Company cemented itself as the Lady's prized outfit, and the three new TakenWhisper, Feather, and Journey – took the helm alongside the Limper as the Empire's wizard champions.

Port of Shadows & Shadows Linger[]

Battling enemies in the east[]

For six years after the Battle of Charm, the Empire busied itself putting down enemies in several places in the east. With the Black Company in the lead, the Empire wiped out new crops of Rebels in its new eastern territories like Aloe (the modern narrative in Port of Shadows) and Tally (early chapters of Shadows Linger), as well as Resurrectionists in the Ghost Country.

The black castle in Juniper[]

Meanwhile, with his pawns defeated at the Battle of Charm, the Dominator attempted to escape his prison once again. This time he relied upon an ancient escape plot which he had seeded before his actual imprisonment. It involved a frigid city called Juniper, far outside the Empire's bounds in the distant northwest of the map. The Lady (in person) and her forces – including the Limper, all three new Taken, and the Black Company – fought against the Dominator's castle creatures in the Battle of Juniper. Victory was hard-won, with the Lady personally putting down the Dominator's fiery, towering projection as it emerged from the black castle. The Lady replenished her Imperial coffers by plundering Juniper's sacred Catacombs. But the entire city ended up being sacked in a subsequent revolt.

The Black Company suffered hundreds of fatalities in Juniper, and its surviving core became open enemies of the Lady after discovering a conspiracy against them that had been independently hatched by her minions Whisper and Feather. Before departing Meadenvil, senior Black Company men and a handful of new allies defeated the Limper, brutalizing him but falsely believing he was dead.

Before The White Rose[]

For four years, the Lady's two surviving new Taken (Whisper and Journey) hounded the Black Company from Chimney in the distant west, clear across the northern continent until they reached the Plain of Fear. The Company was desperately escorting Darling, the reincarnation of the White Rose, to safety. Along the way, the elite Imperial Nightstalker Brigade inflicted a dismal defeat upon the Company at the Battle of Queen's Bridge. This battle reverberated throughout the Empire, significantly weakening the Company's notorious reputation and strengthening the Lady's military posture.

Rise of the New White Rose Rebellion[]

Then, after four years in flight, the Company settled into a series of stinking caverns called the Hole out on the Plain of Fear. There, they remained Darling's elite bodyguards and became the nucleus of the New White Rose Rebellion against the Empire. For two years, they directed Rebel activity throughout the Empire, most especially in the east... including Rust and other cities that had supported the Circle of Eighteen.

The White Rose[]

Against the New White Rose Rebellion[]

The Empire gained 5 additional new Taken (Benefice, Scorn, Blister, the Creeper, and Learned) as well as a restored member of the original Ten: the Limper. They encircled the Plain of Fear and prepared to crush the New White Rose Rebellion. The Rebels had formidable strengths: Darling's null field, many cities full of violent underground dissidents, and perhaps most importantly, the later addition of gigantic windwhales and hordes of other Plain monsters. To compensate, the Empire developed new flying carpets and innovative combat techniques. Several battles and skirmishes were fought in places like Tanner, Rust, Spit, Frost, the Plain of Fear itself, and finally, a dramatic aerial skirmish outside Horse.

Alliance and Battle of the Barrowland[]

When the Lady personally brokered a truce with Darling, the Empire and New White Rose Rebellion became allies. Together they moved to combat the common enemy, the Dominator, before he could free himself from the Barrowland using the surging tides of the Great Tragic River. At the Battle of the Barrowland, the Empire achieved a major victory by killing the Dominator and erasing Darling's null. The personal cost for the Lady was steep, however, as she too lost her sorcery after being named by Silent, a member of Darling's Rebel outfit.

Shadow Games[]

Not long after the Battle of the Barrowland was the first troubling sign of the potential dissolution of the Empire. The Falcon of Rail, an Imperial proconsul, was ambushed by a band of brigands (Imperial deserters) on the road merely 2 weeks north of the Tower at Charm. Order was restored by the Black Company, which was now reduced to merely 6 men, escorting the Lady herself southward: they rounded up the bandits and turned them over to the Imperial garrison in Vest.

The Lady departs her Empire[]

The Lady spent 2 weeks holed up in the Tower. She hid the fact that she was now a powerless mortal, and carefully tended to the bureaucracy of her Empire so that it would fall into trustworthy hands. She then accompanied the Black Company on their trek toward their fabled origin of Khatovar, and she never returned to her Empire again. However, she would reminisce about it at times during her travails in faraway Taglios:

Damn, I missed the military engine I’d had back home. I started wondering what I was doing here, why I had come. Pointless, woman. I could not go back. That empire had moved on. It had no place for me now.

–Lady, Dreams of Steel, chapter 26

The Silver Spike[]

The wicker man's rampage[]

Just over 1 year after the Battle of the Barrowland, many Imperial cities were sacked by the Limper (the "wicker man") and Toadkiller Dog and their ragtag army of thugs, opportunists, and deserters. The first sacking was the mostly abandoned Eternal Guard town of the Barrowland, continuing southward into Oar, down through the central provinces, and into Opal which was reduced to "ruins". The Limper crossed the Sea of Torments and continued his bloody rampage in Beryl (which suffered terribly) and beyond into Imperial holdings further south. The only place spared was the Tower at Charm itself, which the Limper briefly penetrated but could not conquer.

Regaining military footing[]

Although the Imperial cities fought the Limper, they were unprepared to combat a sorcerer of his magnitude and insanity (he was the last of the powerful Ten Who Were Taken active in the north). However, the Empire's new leaders regained their footing during the Limper's time waylaid in the Temple of Travellers' Repose (outside the bounds of the Empire). They knew he would come back for the silver spike – a relic that would effectively transform into a demigod – and prepared accordingly. They coordinated a carefully-choreographed response to the Limper's inevitable return.

When the Limper retraced his steps northward, the Empire had already evacuated all its cities and towns (most prominently Beryl), stripped the entire southern coast of all boats the mad sorcerer could use, and placed The Dark Wings in the sea to guarantee he would be forced to take the long, easterly overland route. The Imperial armies laid dozens of clever traps, slowing his progress, in places where they knew he would travel, like the Mountains of Sinjian and the Straits of Angine. Finally, in Oar, the top Imperial sorcerer Exile (along with Gossamer, Spidersilk, and numerous dread lords and ladies directly from the Tower) staged a final confrontation with the Limper. All these Imperial leaders were wiped out, but the Limper was killed and the silver spike secured for eternity. The New White Rose Rebellion reappeared briefly to lend invaluable assistance to the Empire, but disappeared immediately after the confrontation with the Limper in Oar.

Bleak Seasons[]

Despite the decapitation of Tower leadership that occurred during The Silver Spike, the Empire apparently recouped and persisted for at least a few years afterward. The Empire was revisited by Otto and Hagop, carrying letters from the Lady herself, all the way from Taglios. They stated that the "empire is boring these days" after having spent six uneventful months at the Tower. They returned to Taglios and reported their findings to Croaker in Bleak Seasons.

Dissolution[]

In Port of Shadows, it was revealed that the Lady's Empire eventually dissolved. Since Otto and Hagop found the Empire in apparently peaceful and stable conditions about one and a half years before Bleak Seasons, the dissolution must have occurred at some point after that.

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