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The western wilderness is a vast region of the northern continent which is the setting for several of the short stories in the On The Long Run arc. Croaker the Black Company Annalist wrote that it contains the "densest forest north of the Sea of Torments" and complained freely about the humid, inhospitable, bug-infested expanse. The Company's time in this wilderness was checkered with disappearances and the constant paranoia of being pursued by the airborne new Taken. It was also discovered that several locations within it are associated with the long-extinct empire known as the Domination.

The westernmost verge of this wilderness borders a coastal region which is accessible via the salt waters of the Gap. Inland from the coast, and following the path of the Black Company from west to east, the wilderness features:

  1. the strange clearing where the supernatural woman Leta resides ("Leta of the Thousand Sorrows");
  2. the two rivers and the island inhabited by shapeshifting mermaids like Dai-Li and their immortal enemies, Adelin, Honra, and Eisen Fisher ("Wet Dream Fish Story");
  3. the sorcery-charged cemetery called Grand Memorial to Our Honored Dead ("Those Who Went Before");
  4. the massive geological cavity called the Rip, and the nearby hidden population of servants bound to the Master and his Taken minion, Blind Emon ("Shaggy Dog Bridge");
  5. more populated eastern areas, such as the unnamed homeland of Chasing Midnight and the haunted Village of Hungry Ghosts ("Bone Eaters").

The backwater city of Rue – the setting of "Chasing Midnight: The Dark Lord as a Teen" – seems to mark the eastern end of the western wilderness.

Ancient history[]

The various places in the western wilderness are sites of history that would be forgotten for centuries until their visition by the Black Company.

Events of uncertain chronology[]

Leta – a human sorceress or perhaps a female supernatural entity – and a city associated with her was once located a few weeks from the coast of the Gap or nearby waters. The city was destroyed by cataclysmic sorcery and Leta's spirit became trapped in the circular, treeless clearing that remained. It is possible this event involved the Dominator but it likewise may have transpired before his empire.

Far away from Leta's clearing, and east of the Rip, is the haunted and shunned Village of Hungry Ghosts. Untold centuries ago this was once a town fed by an aqueduct and nearby spring, but the place had fallen into ruin after being taken over by a community of hungry ghosts. It is not known if these lethal entities are associated with the Domination or if they predate or postdate that era entirely.

Domination era[]

Three locations of the western wilderness are known for certain to have been part of the violent history of the empire known as the Domination.

The Dominator knew that the consumption of mermaid flesh in sufficient quantities resulted in immortality and superior health. Since mermaids lived in the western wilderness, he sent a group of loyal men as mermaid fishers to kill them, process their flesh into jerky, and send it back to him for whomever he saw fit to share it with. These men included the trio known as Adelin, Honra, and Eisen Fisher and they lived on an island connected by bridges. After the Domination fell, the Fishers became trapped on the island and their numbers dwindled as the mermaids hunted them for more than three centuries until only three remained.

An area just a few weeks trek east of the mermaid island is associated with a "no-mercy war" that took place between the Domination and another civilization whose name and language has been lost. The Dominator won, but powerful wizards from the destroyed people survived at least long enough to construct their sorcery-charged cemetery, the Grand Memorial to Our Honored Dead. It was built as a peaceful place to relive the memories of the fallen. But at some point in the centuries which followed, an unidentified force transformed the cemetery into a malevolent place where the spirits of the dead could try to possess visitors.

East of the haunted cemetery is the Rip. In this region, the Dominator warred against a rival sorcerer called the Master. All of the Master's enslaved wizards were slain except for Blind Emon. At great sacrifice, the Master somehow escaped death and enslavement by the Dominator, and his hideous castle remained for centuries afterward.

Croaker's Annals[]

Roughly 415 years after the fall of the Domination, the Black Company enters the western wilderness for the first time in the band's storied history. They trek across it from west to east in the On The Long Run arc which is set in the interim between events chronicled in Shadows Linger and in The White Rose.

Mentioned in "Cranky Bitch"[]

Although the Company does not yet enter the western wilderness in "Cranky Bitch", the untamed landscape was a source of major discussion. The choice of either dismebarking from their vessel and trekking through this wilderness or remaining on board to sail south and "outsprint [their] destiny at sea" was the critical decision facing them. Croaker knew the region was a good option and described what he knew about it as follows:

Just inland from the coast lay the western verge of a vast wilderness, country known almost entirely through rumor and legend. The Company should have no trouble getting lost out there.

The aquaphobic One-Eye was the biggest proponent of entering the wilderness, and eventually, the Lieutenant made the decision himself when discussions failed to provide a clear consensus.

"Leta of the Thousand Sorrows"[]

Main article: Leta of the Thousand Sorrows

When the Black Company began its trek in the westernmost verge of the wilderness, they found themselves in "a forest without even a pretense of a road". They camped in the supernatural clearing where Leta resided and after numerous sexual trysts with her "harvesters" she finally restored her vitality. Leta clashed with Whisper and some other new Taken with violent sorcery, then left with the Company as they traveled eastward. She died or lost her corporeality under mysterious circumstances later, perhaps suborned back to her clearing by the Taken in revenge.

"Wet Dream Fish Story"[]

Croaker complains about the wilderness in "Wet Dream Fish Story" as follows:

a bedamned ridiculous-dense primeval forest. Every damned oak had to be six hundred years old. The beeches, ashes, yews, whatever, were also monster survivors from ancient times. And always, the space between was filled with scrub that had thorns on, but no berries. [...] Oh. Yes. I should mention the heat. There was lots of heat. And humidity. Every morning, the forest was filled with mist. And it rained every afternoon.

But the Company is excited when they discover an old road, which is overgrown but well-built and serviceable. The road leads them to a stunning sight: a steep cliff and a massive, mile-wide river. Within it is an island, which Croaker states must have been artificially constructed. It is overgrown, a mile long, a half-mile wide, and is connected to both riverbanks by a pair of old bridges. They arrive at the island where the Domination-era immortals named Adelin, Honra, and Eisen Fisher have been living in mortal contention with buxom, shapeshifting mermaids. The Company eventually rebuilds the two bridges, and as they cross the second one, they witness the mermaids' bloody revenge against the Fishers.

"Those Who Went Before"[]

...we'd blundered into a locus of serious ancient magic. The great forest was infested with spooky shit from ancient times.

At the start of "Those Who Went Before" the Company has been trekking "for several months and more than one hundred miles" through the western wilderness. They cross through the Grand Memorial to Our Honored Dead, suffering several casualties and disappearances among their new recruits from Chimney.

"Shaggy Dog Bridge"[]

In "Shaggy Dog Bridge" Croaker describes the titanic Rip which carves through the western wilderness as follows:

Before humanity began counting time, and maybe before there was any humanity to count it, something weird smacked the living shit out of this end of the world. Maybe a god swung a cosmic cleaver. Maybe some natural force acted up. Whatever, a knife-edge wound slashed the earth for seven hundred miles, across the grain, through mountains and forests, swamps and plains, often more than a thousand feet deep, never more than an eighth of a mile wide. It drained lakes and shifted rivers. Our side, the west, boasted hundreds of square miles of dense hardwood forest on rounded mountains with deep valleys between. Tough traveling. From what I could see the east side was exactly the same.

The Company crosses an ancient bridge and some of them witness a clash of battlefield sorcery between the new Taken (led by Whisper) and Blind Emon (augmented by her Master). A special team of Company men helps Blind Emon blast the Master's bridge while numerous Imperial troops are crossing it. During this part of their trek, the Company learns that a whole town of the Master's "gaunt serfs" has been hidden here for generations.

"Bone Eaters"[]

By the time of "Bone Eaters" the Black Company has entered a region of the western wilderness characterized by "dry scrubland that went on and on and on" including a populated region with several villages. They pick up a newcomer named Chasing Midnight. More than one hundred miles later, they are herded by the new Taken into the haunted and shunned Village of Hungry Ghosts, which they successfully cleanse of evil entities.

The eastern boundaries of the wilderness are not specified by Croaker, but the Company seems to have exited the wilderness by the time they enter the backwater city of Rue.